Under measures proposed in Improving Value for Money for Publicly Funded Criminal Defence Services in London, firms will face a two-stage process in order to secure a case. First, to win the right to participate in the bid round, firms will have to prove they have provided quality advice in the past and achieved suitable outcomes for the client. Approved firms will be allowed to bid a price per case for a percentage of available duty solicitor work, with the lowest bid successful if there are too many bidders.

Any firms failing the initial quality review stage will have to undergo an independent peer review in order to be allowed to bid. Firms failing two of these ?peer reviews? will be excluded from the bid process and will have to stop doing ?own client work?. These excluded firms will be given a transition period ?in which to rearrange their business and ensure that no client is disadvantaged?.

LSC executive director for service design, Jonathan Lindley, said: ?Criminal defence is a fundamental legal right. However, when this is publicly funded, we need to ensure that the taxpayer is getting the best value for money, whilst at the same time guaranteeing clients have quality advice and representation.?

Roy Morgan, chairman of the Legal Aid Practitioners? Group, predicted firms would meet the quality standard as most ?legal aid firms still in practice have had to jump through so many hoops for the LSC already?, but he questioned whether tendering ?would actually cut costs?. ?From what I hear the LSC has based its calculations on flawed data compiled before cuts in criminal legal aid were introduced last year,? he said. The paper states that the project will be extended to other parts of the country if it ?yields theanticipated benefits?.

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