Government releases streamlined legal roster
Sixty-eight firms have made a whole-of-government legal roster, a significant reduction on the 152 firms used by government agencies in the 2010/11 financial year.
The Legal Services Multi-Use List (LSMUL) will replace individual agency panel arrangements deemed inefficient by two reports commissioned by the Attorney-General’s Department – the Blunn Krieger report and Gruen report.
Taking effect 1 June, the list includes HWL Ebsworth, which has been targeting government work since the announcement of the LSMUL last year. Managing partner Juan Martinez (pictured) told Lawyers Weekly the firm made strategic moves to become a strong candidate for inclusion on LSMUL, which included setting up a Canberra office.
“We knew there was going to be a significant restructure of legal services to the Australian government and made a big commitment to Canberra, setting up a strong presence there with the recruitment of a number of highly-qualified people.”
This included poaching six partners from DLA Piper in 2011 to head up HWL Ebsworth’s Canberra office.
“We invested in this area because we believed that was what we had to do to be ahead of the game,” said Martinez.
Firms named in the LSMUL have been pre-approved to provide legal services to agencies across four categories: corporate and commercial, dispute resolution and litigation, government and administrative law, and all other legal services.
HWL Ebsworth, along with Australian Government Solicitor, Ashurst, Clayton Utz, DLA Piper, Hunt & Hunt, Minter Ellison and Sparke Helmore, have been named across all four categories.
These firms will compete with smaller, cheaper mid-tier and boutique firms, such as Proximity Legal, a specialist secondment legal provider focused on the government sector.
Shaking things up
Two former DLA Piper lawyers, Sean King and James Dunn, set up Proximity Legal in anticipation of the LSMUL. King believes that the LSMUL will “shake up” the legal profession.
“The Australian government legal market has been very static for a long time. The multi-use list will change that, paving the way for new service delivery models.”
Under the Proximity Legal model, lawyers work with government departments and agencies on their premises.
“Greater innovation and diversity of suppliers will undoubtedly have major benefits for the Australian government,” said King.
LSMUL is part of a series of reforms driven by the Attorney-General’s Department to cut red tape and drive cost-efficiency in the delivery and management of legal services to the Commonwealth.
Last financial year, the Australian government paid $281.6 million to 152 legal services providers, according to Legal Services Expenditure Report, with the top 10 firms receiving around 89 per cent of the total.
Firms that didn’t make LSMUL can submit an application for inclusion at any time. However, assessment will only be undertaken twice a year. The deadline for the next round of applications is 4 September 2012.
Top earners - the firms paid the most by the Government last year
- Australian Government Solicitor: $115 million
- Clayton Utz: $36.6 million
- Blake Dawson (now Ashurst): $25.3 million
- DLA Phillips Fox (now DLA Piper): $19.7 million
- Corrs Chambers Westgarth: $16.9 million
Source: Commonwealth Legal Services Expenditure Report 2010-11