The Crown Commercial Service is to set up two legal services panels worth an estimated £410m for use by central government and associated public bodies, as part of a wider strategic plan for the delivery of legal services across the public sector.
Acting for the Minister for the Cabinet Office, the CCS has issued prior information notices with calls for competition in relation to the two panels, which cover (1) general legal advice services and (2) finance and highly complex transactions.
These two panels will be made available to ‘permitted users’, which include all UK ministerial and non-ministerial departments, their associated executive agencies and NDPBs (non-departmental public bodies), including any successor bodies.
The CCS is expected in due course to issue a prior information notice with a call for competition in relation to a third panel or ’block’ that will be specific to an individual central government department.
The fourth element of the wider strategic plan that the CCS has been working on is a procurement vehicle for the delivery of legal services to other public bodies beyond central government. This will involve the design of an electronic platform that will be simple and accessible to use and deliver value for money.
These arrangements will replace the current legal services framework operated by the CCS and which is said to have delivered an average 25% in savings. There are 47 suppliers under the existing arrangements, which expire on 31 January 2017.
For the general legal advice services panel (worth £320m excluding VAT), bidders will be required to demonstrate expertise and capacity to provide as a minimum these mandatory specialisms: Public Law; Competition/EU; Contracts; Construction; Corporate; Data protection/FOIA; Dispute resolution; Employment; Environment; Franchising; H&S; IT; Insurance; IP; Litigation; Outsourcing; Partnership; Pensions; Planning; Projects / PFI/PPP; Public Procurement; Real Estate/Estate Finance; Restructuring/Insolvency; Tax.
They will also be required to provide end to end advice/support on public procurement matters including process structure, documentation, drafting, criteria and negotiation. They will similarly be expected to draft, negotiate and advise on contracts, and support relationships between permitted users and third parties with advice on rights, obligations, breaches, changes and the like.
The anticipated maximum number of providers to be appointed to the general legal advice services panel is approximately 18.
For the second panel (worth £90m excluding VAT), successful law firms will provide legal services to permitted users “in connection with complex finance matters, capital markets, regulation, highly complex transactions, innovative and/or strategically important transformational change, including major or complex projects, and mergers and acquisitions”.
Potential providers will again be required to demonstrate expertise in certain mandatory areas of law relevant to the panel.
The anticipated maximum number of providers to be appointed to this panel is ten.
Neither panel will be divided into lots, in contrast to the current legal services framework run by the CCS.
The anticipated start date for these two new panels is late November 2016. They are expected to last four years (48 months), although that may be split into smaller time periods.