A boom in the number of private finance initiatives has put plenty of multimillion pound contracts up for grabs. The City firms are winning most of the work, with in-house lawyers saying that they need to be represented by firms which can match those the banks are instructing opposite them.
Despite this, the sector is still obliged to put every piece of work out to tender, often advertising in the legal press and sometimes inviting a group of firms to bid.
Those operating in this sector have to get value for money and the Treasury Solicitor’s Department insists that it is not just the same people appearing all the time.
In-house advisers regularly draw in new firms and they are looking for lawyers who can show a bit of imagination. Previous public sector experience is an advantage because lawyers have to understand the way the public and private sectors interact. When submitting tenders, firms are expected to be able to demonstrate this knowledge and are likely to win work if they can say what issues they expect to come up as the project develops.
Public sector lawyers like to be wooed by the people who are going to be doing the work rather than by client relation partners. Relationships with individuals are very important so links to firms are kept flexible in case people move.
But experts are hard to come by, so once firms start bringing in the work they will find more will follow.