Legal Services Reform

The Attorney-General’s Department provides Commonwealth departments and agencies with general guidance on issues relevant to the acquisition or provision of legal services, particularly through competitive tendering and contracting processes.

Attorney-General, the Hon Robert McClelland MP, has announced the release of a common form tender package for mandatory use by all Commonwealth agencies.  This will improve how the Commonwealth purchases its legal services by streamlining processes, cutting red tape and will reduce the costs for both the private legal sector and taxpayers.

Significant elements of the new package include:

  • Allowing smaller agencies to ‘piggy-back’ on tender panels established by larger agencies in the same portfolio.
  • Removing ‘mini tenders’ for legal work valued at less than $80,000.
  • Requiring agencies to assess a firm’s pro bono commitment when evaluating legal services tenders.

These new requirements build on reforms introduced earlier in the year, and highlight the Rudd Government’s commitment to legal assistance programs, which exceeds $270 million a year. The earlier reforms included measures to;

  • mandate the manner in which agencies are to report their legal services expenditure and provide a template for use by agencies;
  • ensure legal services providers that perform pro bono work against the Commonwealth are not discriminated against by a Commonwealth agency procuring legal services;
  • enable lawyers employed by private law firms that provide legal services to the Commonwealth to be appointed under section 63 of the Judiciary Act 1903;
  • require all persons accepting service under section 63 of the Judiciary Act to provide a standard Notice to Commonwealth agencies when seeking instructions;
  • impose an obligation on Chief Executives of Commonwealth agencies to report annually about acceptance of service pursuant to the Judiciary Act and;
  • strongly encourage agencies and legal services providers to consider, and use where appropriate, methods to resolve claims without recourse to litigation.

Further information about the reform package is available on Attorney General’s Department website here.

The Attorney-General’s Media release is available here.