The LAA has published a frequently asked questions document in relation to the crime duty tender. As tends to be the case, some of the answers are illuminating and others raise further questions which remain unanswered. However, any firm considering a bid will want to consider them carefully.
Financial information The LAA will want information on gearing (generally understood as the ratio of fee-earners to owners of the business), debt and net worth. The LAA says the data will be considered by ‘qualified financial professionals’ – we hope they will be familiar with legal practices as knowledge of the sector is so important in being able to interpret the raw data correctly. Firms may wish to discuss this with their own accountants now with a view to providing explanatory notes if needed.
Expansion capacity The LAA will consider ‘current turnover’ as the entire turnover of the Applicant Organisation, including all legal aid and private paying work, not just in crime. This may assist larger mixed practices.
Current turnover will be the last two years accounts – again, if anything would require explanation due to particular circumstances, firms may wish to consider this with their accountants now.
Percentage of work done by the Applicant Organisation / Delivery Partner This will not have to be specified in the bid and the LAA will simply keep it under review as part of routine contract monitoring.
Contract values To date the LAA has only been able to provide the value of work undertaken on individual police station schemes and has not been able to split out the value of work in the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts as data was not gathered that way. It will publish indicative contract values when the tender opens.
Capacity tests These will not relate to a minimum number of duty solicitors; but there will be a supervisor/caseworker ratio as documented in the draft contract. Note that supervisor requirements are being changed. The new forms are here.
The LAA confirmed you will need to employ a full time fee-earner per every £83k of indicative contract value. This is disappointing as it imposes an artificial framework and may inhibit firms from developing the most effective model for delivery under the proposed new arrangements.
VHCC work will not be included in the duty contracts.
Duty work It will not be possible to convert a duty client into an own client if the client gives further instructions post initial duty work in the police station or Magistrates Court. This also restricts flexibility under the proposed scheme.
Procurement areas Although we know what these will be called, we still do not know exactly what will be covered in each procurement area contract. In some areas, particularly in London, police station and court schemes will not necessarily be co-terminous and we will have to see how this will work when the tender opens. This is very frustrating and makes it hard to plan.
The JR If the outcome affects the LAA’s timetable – they still expect to open the bid in October – they will let us know.