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LSC offers interim family contracts to all firms meeting minimum standards

5 September 2011

The tender process opens today for the family contracts which will run until the cuts outlined in the legal aid bill come into force. These currently include the removal of legal aid from all private law cases.

Carolyn Downs, chief executive of the Legal Services Commission, said in an open letter that all firms which met mandatory requirements would be awarded an interim contract, starting in February 2012.

But she warned that the LSC’s budget was not “without limit” and this meant that some applicants would not receive all the matter starts they applied for.

She said that since the High Court quashed the first version of the LSC’s new contracts last year, following the successful judicial review by the Law Society, the LSC had “worked hard to learn lessons” and representative bodies had “significant input” into the design of the latest tender.

“While no process of this scale will be without some complexity, we believe the tender that we are about to launch is as simple as possible given the number of prospective applicants and our obligations to operate an open and fair tender process.”

Downs said that where firms could not secure the number of matter starts they needed the LSC would see if additional matter starts could be allocated “using existing provisions within the contract”.

She added that firms would not be able to submit or revise their tenders after the deadline on 3 October.

“Once awards have been made, there will no opportunity for successful applicants to return or hand back part of the matter start allocation they have received,” Downs said.

“I cannot therefore stress enough the importance that applicants bid only for the number of matter starts they reasonably intend to deliver as we will require that this be used once the contract starts.”

However, she said organisations could check and amend their response in the e-tender system until the deadline.

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