Serco braves its lawyers’ wrath over online tender

Business support services company Serco has hit back at criticism levelled at its new online tender process, which is being used for the selection of its new group legal panel.

The UK company has utilised a similar online format for its review as the controversial system used by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) last year. At the time, law firms were critical of RBS because of the arduous bidding process, which slowed down proceedings dramatically.

Serco appears to be undeterred by the bank’s difficulties and has utilised a similar bidding process for its full-service review, in which
law firms are required to complete their submissions through a set of documents on the internet.

Industry pundits have, however, already begun questioning the success of the online process, claiming the firm missed its own deadline last month to begin the interview phase of the panel review.

A lawyer from one of Serco’s existing legal advisers said the company’s silence had increased anxiety surrounding the online process, especially as the system did not confirm the successful receipt of submissions.

Serco spokesman David Brotzen denied the accusations, stating that a dialogue with firms would begin only once Serco had reviewed all of the information included in the submissions.

Around 40 firms are understood to have participated in the initial online submission process, with Serco expected to refine this down to a final full-service panel of 10 firms by the end of the year.

Brotzen explained that the review is targeted at increasing cost-efficiency and developing a more strategic approach to firms’ legal services, as the company currently selects advisers on an ad hoc basis.

“The review is across the board, covering everything from finance and PFI to employment and pensions law,” he said. “Cost-efficiency is the main objective, but it is also about using the most appropriate lawyers.”

All of the firms the company has used in the past were invited to participate in the panel review. These include Allen & Overy, Altheimer & Gray, Herbert Smith, Nabarro Nathanson and Simmons & Simmons.