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The bar is becoming increasingly commercial and clients are starting to take advantage of that, particularly in the public sector.
Some months ago, Hackney Borough Council announced that it was forming a panel of barristers, and now three Midlands councils are following suit.
Derby, Leicester and Stoke-on-Trent councils began tendering for chambers to join their panel in April. They have had more than 30 responses from sets practising on the Midlands Circuit. The exercise is the first-ever joint procurement for the three councils, and there is a legal spend of £250,000 at stake. Mind you, 30 responses is nothing compared with the 800 received by Hackney.
The councils have taken a very detailed approach to the procurement, sending interested chambers a bulky document full of questions about individual barristers' experience, fee rates and so on.
This will clearly not be the last panel-tendering exercise for chambers as competition grows for work, so sets had better get used to revealing the minutiae of everyday practice.