Firms get windfall from Government property tenders

GOVERNMENT plans to tender out property legal work relating to £1.4 billion of its departmental property portfolio will provide law firms with one of the most significant opportunities for quality property work since the recession.

The amount of property involved represents a massive 60 per cent of the total civil estate. It consists of all the departments' commercial office property and work will relate to both freehold and leasehold matters, maintenance and conveyancing, both in London and around the country.

David Bramson, Nabarro Nathanson senior partner and a top property lawyer, says: “It's an exciting piece of work, and an answer to many property lawyer's prayers. It will be spread among many firms, and it won't be just the top firms who will get it.”

Adrian Bland, head of property at Eversheds in Birmingham, says: “It is a major opportunity. People will take this very seriously indeed, as any one of the appointments is likely to bring in a substantial volume of regular commercial conveyancing work – something that most firms will want in their property departments.”

The Government's move stems from a Cabinet Office “efficiency scrutiny” of the way property is managed. It has decided to wind down its Property Holdings unit within the Department of the Environment by April 1996, after which all central Government departments will be responsible for their own portfolios.

As departmental lawyers are not property specialists, this means tendering out the work. The first to do so is the Inland Revenue, which last week began seeking tenders to handle its portfolio of 400 properties.

Among the firms sure to tender are the handful who won work regionally when Property Holdings itself first tendered work two years ago, and whose contracts will expire by April.

These are Berwin Leighton (London region), Eversheds (Midlands), Veale Wasbrough (South West), and Vaudrey Osborne Mellor (North West). The Government Property Lawyers, an agency of the Treasury Solicitors Department, has a big slice of the work in all regions and has the North East to itself. Insiders expect it to be a strong contender.

v Nabarro Nathanson was among the firms winning the Treasury work to assist in drafting the Finance Bill. The others are Freshfields, Pump Court tax chambers, and ex-parliamentary counsel Margaret Leates. Thirty firms made bids. Work begins immediately.