The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has today published the research it commissioned Managing Diversity Associates (MDA) to undertake into the impact on Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) firms of its proposals for competitive tendering for 'criminal lower' work in London.

Lord Carter of Coles, who is undertaking a Review of Legal Aid Procurement, has recommended that his proposals replace the plans for London Competitive Tendering.  The MDA research has been passed to Lord Carter for his consideration.  We look forward to publication of Lord Carter's final recommendations, which are expected in late Spring.

Karl Demian, Director of Contract Design at the LSC, who commissioned the research, said: "I'm sure Lord Carter will find the MDA research extremely useful in the preparation of his final proposals for the procurement of legal aid services.  I note that Lord Carter acknowledged in his interim report on the procurement of criminal defence services that particular consideration will need to be given in certain areas, such as those with large black and ethnic minority communities."

The LSC is currently running a project to identify the needs of clients from BME groups to help develop a strategy on how to better meet those needs.

Although the research was commissioned to look specifically at the possible impact of the London Competitive Tendering proposals on BME firms, the LSC will use the report's recommendations to look at:

  • how to bridge the gaps in data identified by MDA, by requiring the provision of data on the ethnicity etc of CDS clients and by introducing a contract amendment, as soon as possible, to require all contracted providers to provide data on the ethnicity, gender and any disability of partners, fee earners and other staff of contracted providers
  • building services for BME clients based on evidence.

The LSC will be asking The Law Society to help it establish an external stakeholder group that will act as an advisory group on BME issues.  The LSC and Department for Constitutional Affairs will work with The Law Society on addressing many of the points raised in the report that relate to the wider legal services market (e.g. ensuring that BME lawyers enjoy equal opportunities).

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