The government is planning to create a UK-wide £650m “legal services marketplace” from which the public sector will procure commercial legal services, it has emerged.
It will cover central government departments and their associated bodies, including the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, along with the wider public sector, ranging from health and education bodies and local and regional government organisations, to emergency services and third-sector organisations.
According to a pre-tender notice published yesterday, Crown Commercial Service (CCS) – the Cabinet Office agency that provides commercial services to the public sector – is looking to set up a commercial vehicle to provide the marketplace, with two models currently under consideration: “a dynamic purchasing system, and/or a framework”.
It explained: “The choice of commercial vehicle(s) will be decided after the results of in-depth market and customer engagement sessions currently being planned.”
The procurement will cover more than 35 ‘legal practice sectors’ with subsets of more than 75 smaller practice areas, ranging from banking and commercial litigation, to travel law and costs drafting.
Bidding firms will need to demonstrate the capacity and capability to “fully provide” at least one of these areas, although consortia or groups of firms, including SME practices, will be welcome, the notice said. The full contract notice is likely to be published on 30 November.
The move forms part of CCS’s reshaping of the way public bodies procure legal services. In March, it appointed 18 firms to a general legal services panel for central government customers and their arm’s length bodies only, lasting two years and worth about £320m. It was split into two tiers, with the six second-tier firms only being used in the event first-tier suppliers were unable to accept the contract.
It is also setting up a panel for finance and complex legal services worth an estimated £90m for an initial two years with an option to extend for two 12-month periods.