Development of the next pan-Wales public sector legal services framework has been paused to allow the Welsh Government to take into account any recommendations its Commission on Justice may make in relation to procurement, Counsel General Jeremy Miles AM has revealed.
In a written statement on the publication of the Rapid Review of the Legal Sector in Wales, the Counsel General noted the report’s conclusion that the overall purchasing power of the Welsh Government – and indeed the wider Welsh public sector – was insufficient on its own to make a meaningful difference to the overall success of law firms through public sector procurement.
Miles said he was pleased nevertheless to note that over the last several years the percentage spend by the Welsh public sector on solicitor services from Wales-based law firms was "very high".
However, he added: “The report did indicate a desire amongst the legal sector for greater simplicity in the procurement process for solicitor services. Development of the next pan-Wales public sector legal services framework has been paused to allow us to take into account any recommendations the Commission on Justice may make in relation to procurement.”
The Commission on Justice in Wales has been set up by the Welsh Government to review the operation of the justice system in Wales.
The National Procurement Service (NPS) for Wales will meanwhile continue to engage with the market and keep them informed of developments including at supplier events which are being delivered this month, he said.
The Counsel General also announced that in relation to the Welsh Government’s panel of counsel he had asked officials in its Legal Services Department to review the arrangements for determining its make-up.
“I can say at this juncture that I am already in discussion with Wales and Chester Circuit about developing a set of initiatives aimed at fostering the Welsh public and administrative law Bar in particular, and about removing some of the real or perceived obstacles that may be getting in the way of Wales based barristers’ securing work from the Welsh Government,” he said.
In his statement Miles also said that encouraging the location of legal service centres in Wales, as recommended in the Rapid Review report, could help to achieve the development of a vibrant legal sector that would in turn encourage more of the country’s home grown talent to remain in Wales.
“Officials in the Economy Department are already liaising with those in our London office and wider legal networks to identify key opportunities, and we will be bringing in specialist support to assist this process further,” he added.
The Counsel General meanwhile announced that officials would be stepping up work with law firms, particularly those in rural areas, to better understand the issues they are facing with a view to offering appropriate support.
He said the UK Government’s court estate and legal aid cuts, advances in technology and changes to the types of advice being sought had created “a challenging environment for law firms in many parts of Wales”.
Miles said the Welsh Government was committed to work proactively with employers and key stakeholders to plan and prepare for future skills support within apprenticeships to address sector demand. “We will work with the sector to assist with workforce development to help stimulate a pipeline, support training and qualifications needed and develop a contemporary and robust route for individual’s looking to pursue a careers within the legal sector.”