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The 2015 Duty Provider Contract - Is your firm considering a formal agreement with other firms to tender for the 2015 Duty Provider Contract?

The Legal Aid Agency has set out a timescale for the start of the new crime contracts. These will commence on 1st July 2015.

A number of firms will be looking to adopt a collaborative approach when tendering for a Duty Provider Contract. The LAA has said it will accept tender submissions from one lead provider firm which will have a number of other firms providing services to it. However, for the tender process, the LAA require that there is a "formal agreement" in place between the firms concerned.

Lawyers considering this approach should work with specialists in this area, to ensure that they have the necessary documentation to meet the requirements of the LAA. However, our view is that the need for a proper legal structure and documentation between parties entering into this collaboration "joint venture" approach is wider than simply meeting the LAA condition of having an agreement.

Commercially, all firms looking to enter into a "partnering approach" to tendering, while appreciating the opportunities, must consider the potential pitfalls. There is a need to have a clear written set of the rights, roles and responsibilities.

For the lead provider making the tender application to the LAA, it is responsible for those firms it has chosen to partner with. It needs to know that everything is spelt out legally.

Similarly for a firm looking to provide the services to the firm that holds the contract, it will want to know that its rights and responsibilities are set out and that it will not lose out unexpectedly.

From our experience, it is crucial for all parties to have a clear vision from the start on how the arrangements will work, how those arrangements can change on an ongoing basis and what happens if things go wrong and how they can put it right.

Key points to be covered in the formal agreement include:-

• allocation of work;
• roles and responsibilities
• decision making premises
• how is the contract managed
• management structures
• administrative and finance issues
• claiming and distributing the fees
• how are ongoing changes dealt with
• service level requirements
• performance monitoring provisions
• sanctions
• voluntary and enforced termination
• future working together/collaboration

Our professional practices' team has expertise in acting for and advising law firms of all sizes and structures. We are happy to have an initial no cost, no obligation conversation regarding the options and opportunities open to firms with the upcoming tendering process.

Our specialists Andrew Bound and David Beynon can be contacted by email on abound@berrysmith.com and dbeynon@berrysmith.com or by telephone on 02920 345511.

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