Clayton Utz has taken the largest share of the Commonwealth's legal spend amongst external law firms.
According to the Commonwealth Legal Services Expenditure Report 2010-11, released on Friday (9 December), Clayton Utz walked away with $36.6 million (13 per cent) of the $281.6 million the Commonwealth paid to external legal services providers. Next in line was Blake Dawson, which secured $25.3 million (9 per cent), followed by DLA Phillips Fox (now DLA Piper) with $19.7 million (7 per cent) and Corrs Chambers Westgarth with $16.9 million (6 per cent), which represented a doubling of its market share since the 2009-10 period.
The government-owned Australian Government Solicitor claimed the lion's share of Federal Government spending, with 41 per cent of external expenditure.
According to the report, the country's top 10 law firms claimed around 86 per cent of the total external legal spend, with 152 legal services providers being used by the Commonwealth.
This is a significant drop from the 291 legal services providers reported in 2009-10, but the report attributes this, in part, to "more accurate reporting and the clear distinction between legal services providers such as law firms and counsel".
The amount spent on internal legal resources increased at a greater rate than that of external expenditure.
According to the report, internal legal services expenditure of Financial Management and Accountability Act 1999 agencies (such as the Australian Tax Office and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission) increased by approximately $19.6 million (7.7 per cent) from 2009-10, while internal expenditure by Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 agencies (such as Comcare and the CSIRO) increased by around $5.8 million (18.7 per cent).
The report said there was a 5.6 per cent increase in total legal expenditure.
Another significant shift was the amount of counsel being directly briefed by the Commonwealth, with agencies reporting 1,112 briefs to counsel on a direct basis - an increase of around 45 per cent from 2009-10.
Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the report indicates that "there is more to be done to better manage the Commonwealth's legal services".
"The Government remains committed to pursuing further reforms to enhance the management and delivery of legal services across the Commonwealth," he said in a statement.
The report also provided a breakdown of pro bono services delivered to the Commonwealth, with DLA providing the most pro bono hours per lawyer (53), followed by Russell Kennedy (48), Blake Dawson (47.8), Corrs Chambers Westgarth (45.5), Freehills (43) and Clayton Utz (41.3).
Allens Arthur Robinson provided 51 hours of pro bono work per lawyer in 2009-10 but did not provide information for the latest report.