Mark Jones, Commercial Agreements Manager in Legal Services at the Crown Commercial Service discusses the Wider Public Sector Legal Services (RM3788)
All organisations benefit from being able to manage their risk and avoid costs – the wider public sector is no different and providing a framework for appropriate legal services in this field is potentially complicated.
Crown Commercial Service’s (CCS) Wider Public Sector Legal Services panel was launched at the end of 2018, but its story began long before that.
To ensure we got it right for all potential wider public sector users across the UK, we needed to listen and learn well before the design stage.
Only by approaching the task in this open manner could we confidently provide a Wider Public Sector Legal Services panel which successfully ensures a minimum level of quality and a maximum price for services tendered.
The panel’s launch provided an ideal opportunity for us to address a gap in our coverage following the expiry of our old Legal Services Framework.
CCS’s renewal programme to replace that framework comprises three separate panels for central government and other specified bodies, all developed in conjunction with the Government Legal Department, as well as this fourth panel for the wider public sector.
The Wider Public Sector Legal Services panel is more customer focussed and commercially attractive than its predecessor.
We prepared extensively during the design process for the new panel: consulting with the market through Prior Information Notices (PINs), workshops, briefing sessions and a short Request for Information (RFI) process. It’s so important to listen to customers and suppliers at this stage of the process because it not only pays dividends at the end – it makes the resulting agreement so much more user-friendly and successful.
This engagement with groups of potential wider public sector users really did help us to understand their priorities, the way they were currently using legal services and the key specialisms they required support from.
The outcome of that process was true clarity – in order to work effectively, our new panel would need to be designed in a very different way than we might otherwise have realised.
We looked at all the evidence we had generated and opted to break the panel into lots and sub-lots that would provide for sectors, geography and the UK’s three legal jurisdictions.
The resulting lots were regional service provision, property and construction, rail transport and separate full-service firm lots for England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We also tailored the legal specialisms available via the panel based on user feedback. Therefore, we’ve enabled wide-ranging specialisms, such as licensing, education, social housing and primary care law to suit various parts of the wider public sector, such as local authorities, educational authorities, housing associations and NHS trusts.
We’ve placed 71 suppliers on the Wider Public Sector Legal Services panel and almost one-third of them are small and medium-sized providers. We enabled suppliers to compete for a place on Lot 1 (Regional Service Provision) provided they had the capability in a minimum of one specialism and one region, thus, opening up the panel to regional and specialist firms. This approach ensures customers can access a broad variety of organisations no matter where in the UK legal support is required.
We at CCS feel the main benefits of this panel are the ease of call-off it can offer customers, with options for further competition and direct award where needed. We also hope our customers will find value in the maximum tendered hourly and daily rates and other extras, such as two hours initial free consultation.
It is in ways like this we hope the panel’s built-in, value for money ethos shines through.
The Wider Public Sector Legal Services panel provides consistency and reassurance to customers by placing a maximum on chargeable rates. For example, if a public sector organisation opts not to run a further competition, but to award directly, they can be assured those rates will still have been completed through the panel.
Our legal services team remain focused on improving the panel further and are currently in the process of digitising the filtering and selection processes on it for even greater ease of use.
Just like any other organisation, those in the wider public sector sometimes require legal support and they should be entitled to effective and value for money options. We feel this panel provides just that.
For more information on The Wider Public Sector Legal Services panel please visit the CCS webpage here (https://www.crowncommercial.gov.uk/agreements/RM3788)
© Crown copyright
CCS Commercial Agreements Manager – Legal Services
Crown Commercial Service
Tel: +44 (0) 0345 410 2222
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