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THE POST Office has slashed the law firms on its panel from 40 to just four each of which can expect to receive around £0.5m a year in fee income.
Eversheds, Hammond Suddards, Weightmans and Bond Pearce are the successful bidders for four three-year contracts to handle the Post Office's personal injury litigation, employment law and commercial property work.
The contracts have been awarded after a major tendering operation designed to put the way the Post Office outsources its legal work on a more commercial footing.
The work has been divided up regionally: Eversheds will cover the Midlands; Hammond Suddards the North East, Weightmans the North West; and Bond Pearce the South West.
The Post Office's in-house legal team will be responsible for the South East.
In an unusual move the Post Office will require the four firms to liaise and share information about the work during the life of the contract.
The firms will also be working to protocols to ensure a consistent service and will be measured against key performance indicators that the Post Office has put in place.
Over 300 firms had shown an initial interest in pitching for the work. From this number the Post Office invited four firms in each region to make a half-day presentation.
Catherine Churchard, director of legal services at the Post Office, said that the four firms chosen "stood out for their commitment to achieving client satisfaction and to a way of working which fits with our own quality management programme".
Churchard refused to name the firms which made a presentation but missed out.
However, Clarke Willmott & Clarke, Leo Abse & Cohen and Davies Wallis Foyster were among those firms.
Churchard said that there would be a transitional phase during which the Post Office would leave existing work with the 40 firms that it currently instructs across the country.
Both Mike Ball of Weightmans and Simon Richardson of Bond Pearce described the evaluation process as "tough". Ball welcomed the security of the Post Office's three-year commitment in particular.
The Post Office is planning a similar rationalisation of its use of law firms in Scotland to begin early in the summer.