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Criminal legal aid tender: advice and support

Last updated: 15 April 2015

Very regrettably, the appeal by the Law Society, London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association and Criminal Law Solicitors' Association of the judicial review of the criminal legal aid reforms has been unsuccessful.
Read our press release

This means the suspension of the tender process is now over and firms will need to continue preparations for their tender bid.

The tender process resumed on Friday 27 March and the deadline for submitting tender applications is Tuesday 5 May.

The Law Society is deeply disappointed with the result of the legal challenge, but working with the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association and Criminal Law Solicitors' Association, we certainly put up a good fight.

We continue to challenge the significant and unsustainable cuts to criminal legal aid, the two-tier contract structure and the planned second fee cut.

If there is any further support or advice we can offer at this point, please contact us at legalaid@lawsociety.org.uk.

Delivery partnership template

Some members have told us that they are already engaged in setting up delivery partnerships, and are anxious to be able to do this with the benefit of as much information as possible.

It is for this reason that we have prepared a template for a delivery partnership agreement, which some of you may find useful in planning how you will engage with the tender process.

Download our template for a delivery partnership agreement (PDF) 

Please note: this is intended only to provide a base document from which a delivery partnership agreement can be developed. It is not exhaustive and may include references to matters that are not appropriate in specific circumstances.

Additionally, it may not reflect the balance of risks and obligations that you and your delivery partners may agree between you. This document is not intended as a substitute for taking appropriate legal, regulatory, taxation, financial and other relevant advice.

Previous duty contracts advice

You may find the following advice helpful:

SRA guidance

Some of our members may find the following SRA guidance helpful:

Advice to firms on COLP duties

Firms that are currently considering or are in the process of completing the Legal Aid Agency's tender for a crime duty provider contract will need, as with any other major business decision, to have regard to the specific responsibilities and duties of the firm under the Code of Conduct. Ultimately responsibility for doing this rests with the firm's compliance officer for legal practice (COLP).

The SRA's Principle 8 states that you must 'run your business or carry out your role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles'. More details can be found in Chapter 7 of the Code eg Outcome 7.3 requires a firm to 'identify, monitor and manage risks to compliance with all the Principles, rules and outcomes and other requirements of the Handbook, if applicable to you, and take steps to address issues identified” and under 7.4 a firm must 'maintain systems and controls for monitoring the financial stability of your firm ... [and] take steps to address issues identified'.

Examples of factors to consider include the firm's ability to scale up, or to deliver a wider range of services across a larger area, or the firm's ability to access finance for any expansion necessary.

The SRA is not interested in policing a firm's business decisions, but one of the obligations listed in Chapter 10 of the Code of Conduct, and which in practice falls to the COLP, is 10.3: 'you notify the SRA promptly of any material changes to relevant information about you including serious financial difficulty, action taken against you by another regulator and serious failure to comply with or achieve the Principles, rules, outcomes and other requirements of the Handbook'.

You will therefore need to think about the financial viability of any proposed bid in the light of your firm's obligations, particularly under chapters 7 and 10 of the Code.

 

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