Thursday, 2 January 2014

What do you do in a lawyers' market?

I have often said that Procurement's biggest risk is that no one wants to supply. Now MoJ are faced with a variation of that very problem as barristers opt not to provide services under the new legal aid arrangements - quite simply barristers are saying, "at that rate, no thanks". This isn't remotely new, indeed I predicted as much last July.

There is little point in assuming, as a buyer, that rates are too high and that you are no longer going to pay, if you haven't ensured someone will supply, at what you to consider to be, a more reasonable rate. It appears as if the negotiating power isn't with MoJ at the moment but with the legal profession. So who will climb down?

The costs incurred through not being able to ensure a fair trial due to lack of legal representation will have an impact on the justice system, the costs of delayed court cases will have to be borne somewhere in the system, and then there's the question of whether or not the government have the courage to take on the legal profession claiming they are acting as a cartel?

The stand-off with the barristers can't be seen in isolation though; couldn't the medical profession try a variation of the same ploy in negotiating their contracts?

The big question is 'can the buyers break the market' or reconstruct it in their favour, say, for example, contracting with advocates from other EU countries, or does the English legal system prohibit such freedom of movement to English courts?

This is more than a test of wills, it strikes at the very core of austerity and the notion of being a preferred customer. When suppliers have a choice of who to sell to, who would expect them to opt for contracts which just don't suit them.

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