At Tender Works, we want new tenderers (ie. you) to know exactly what they’re getting in to in terms of putting together a bid. In this latest post, we’ll be covering how legal tenders work through an example legal tender response below.
The purpose of this post is to highlight how to complete a legal tender and the observations that I’ve learnt from my time at a legal firm tendering for mostly public sector contracts.
Most legal tenders in Australia will usually be supplied in the form of a set of documents such as:
- Returnable Schedule(s): This is the template for your response. Prospective clients, especially government based, will require their templates to be completed in order for the bid to be compliant.
- Draft Contract: Sets out standard clauses covering all requirements that all tenderers will need to abide by in order to be compliant. One of the first things to do as a tenderer is to get professional legal assistance to review any draft contracts. By doing this, your lawyer will be able to identify any clauses that may disadvantage you and propose any amendments that you’ll need to put forth in your bid for the client to review as part of your submission. Since this guide is focused on legal tenders in Australia, all law firms will closely review this document as a matter of principle.
- Scope of Works: The Scope of Works (SOW) is the document that sets out in detail as to what products and/or services by the client are required. This will be the first document you need to read and understand before deciding whether it’s even worthwhile to respond. For legal tenders, the scope will usually consist of the areas of law to be provided.
Now, let’s move on to actually answering a legal tender.
The following tender example below is based off a standard council legal tender in Australia. The sections covered are commonly seen in most tenders of this sort but under different names as no two tenders are exactly the same.
I will also provide certain questions in full to better elaborate on how legal tenders may differ from tenders in other Australian industries.
The tender form is usually the first section requiring a response. In this case, tender forms require standard business/company information such as:
- Legal Name and Trading Name (if any)
- Contact info (phone numbers, emails, addresses)
- Contact person info (phone number, email, position in company)
This section is self-explanatory and won’t take long to complete. Ensure that you have these details close at hand for any future legal tenders to save time.
An interesting fact is that many law firms are actually partnership structures with a company sounding trading name.
The tenderer declaration is often a checklist that needs to be acknowledged and completed as part of a bid. The declaration itself is evidence that a tenderer has read through all the documents provided, responded to all relevant questions and acknowledged that their bid is accurate in terms of capability.
At the end of the day, you need to actually be able to do the work if you’re awarded the tender.
For legal firms, a partner will be the one to put their name down on the declaration.
All legal tenders will require currently active insurance policies.
All legal firms will be insured and all lawyers themselves are required to pay for professional indemnity insurance each year in order to practice.
Insurance requirements will be in every tender. It is generally assumed that all legal firms will already have these documents readily available to submit.
The main categories of insurance asked by clients are:
- Professional Indemnity
- Public Liability
- Workers Compensation
For a guide of these types of insurances and how they compare, click on this link.
If you haven’t noticed already, not having current policies for these insurance types means that you are not ready to tender.
You’re also probably not ready to do business yet either. So in that case, get your business insured before you proceed any further.
Areas of Law
Like most other industries, the legal field is a general, overarching category that can be broken down further in to areas of law such as the following:
- Commercial Law
- Insurance Law
- Property Law
- Environmental Law
- Administrative Law
This list is not exhaustive and can be further broken down in to subsets of these areas of law even further.
Before tendering for a legal services contract, ensure that you review the areas of law required closely and match up the client requirements with the capacity and capability to perform of your nominated team.
Not doing so is fatal to a bid’s chances when it is up for consideration against the competition.
Referees refers solely to professional references provided by current or past clients. These referees must be informed that they will noted down in the bid. Similar to applying for a job, clients will contact referees to confirm a tenderer’s capabilities and experience as part of the assessment process.
For law firms, these referees will likely be representatives from large, prominent companies or a government department or council whom a member of the nominated team has represented or advised for a number of years.
Conflict of Interest
The Conflict of Interest section is primarily concerned with determining whether a law firm will inevitably create a conflict of interest scenario should they pursue and be awarded the tender.
For legal firms in Australia, what this means is that there will be a conflict of interest if a lawyer or the firm as a whole has engaged in matters for a party that may currently be in litigation with the client. Or whose aims and objectives just naturally are opposed to the client as well.
For law firms specifically, certain measures are in place to prevent this event from happening. Internal CRMs are usually used by the large firms to maintain records of matters and the parties involved. Checks are conducted to confirm that the nominated team and its individuals have not been involved with any matters that may work against the client directly.
Law firms however are particularly sensitive to conflict of interest scenarios and will actively decline work if they have already acted for one side. Depending on the area of law, many firms will have a policy in place to only represent either plaintiffs or defendants. This is to simply ensure that conflicts of interest are prevented to begin with.
I personally have been forced to call off responding to certain tenders as the designated lawyers involved have previously acted for the other side of an industry or matter as a whole.
Skills and Experience
While this section may go under a different set of names, its purpose is to demonstrate a legal firm’s capacity and capability to act for the client.
The ability to provide examples of how a law firm has performed for its clients in the past (and also the results) are the best way to address these sorts of questions.
These sections are how you distinguish yourself from the competition. They are revealing to anyone who reads your bid as they show what you’re best at in terms of experience and the skills and resources a law firm has gained through its lifetime.
Usually, you’ll be asked to respond to questions such as:
- Provide examples of similar work with government agencies within the last 3 years
- Provide examples of relevant work relating to the areas of law required
With legal tenders in Australia, it is common for law firms to not specifically state their client (due to privacy restrictions) and instead provide a generalised example:
- Acted for a client in the banking industry who was engaged in litigation with the government due to perceived breach of contract, etc…
Staff Qualifications and Experience
For many tenders, CVs are a must.
For legal tenders, partner CVs in particular are often the best way to validate your team’s experience and expertise.
The reason being that partners will undoubtedly have at least 10 years’ experience in their area(s) of law as well as a long list of matters (both current/previous) that they have been involved in.
In a way, these CVs are the simplest way to show that the lawyers in your firm know exactly what they are doing and have done so for years on end. Law in itself is a traditionalist, conservative industry where advancement to the position of partner takes many years of hard work and dedication. Partners themselves must not only be able to practice effectively but to act as business development managers at the same time, bringing in new clients for their firm.
Their reputations in particular are a strong selling point for any bid put forward.
Furthermore, special counsel and other senior lawyers are also not to be discounted. A tender will put forward a team of lawyers headed by a partner. The team itself must also showcase seniority and a proven ability to handle the areas of law as required by the client.
A proven team of specialists in theirs areas of law is not just a nice thing to write about it. It is a must when it comes for the big government clients to take your bid seriously.
If you look through enough legal tenders in Australia, you’ll notice that there is often a question asking about how a firm would manage a relationship with its clients.
Client relationship management in law is paramount and often comes down to clear lines of communication and a consistent work process as legal work can escalate quickly and become extremely time consuming.
Clients like to feel loved so for this section, it is best to be detailed and outline the main process to ensure that the client will be aware of how the proposed relationship will work and what they can do to quickly report any issues if need be.
If proceedings for a manner are delayed for example, then the client will know what to expect from a law firm as the firm itself would’ve already made contact with instructions for what to do next.
The client is looking for examples of organisation and a clear ability from the law firm to address and rectify any problems should something go wrong. Communication is important as law firms will charge for correspondence alone as the matter moves from one stage to the next.
And from personal experience, these charges will add up and invite confrontation from the client if they’re not fully aware from the outset of these costs.
It may sound obvious but clients want to know if the lawyers nominated actually have the time to perform their duties in line with the scope of works.
Capacity refers to availability of a lawyer to attend to a client when required. Once again, all clients want to feel loved by their service providers so this section is another way to show how that would be the case with your law firm.
For legal tenders in Australia, clients want to know a firm’s general response times to any questions asked, availability outside work hours and the line of succession concerning communication should a particular lawyer be away on leave or handling another matter.
Lawyers themselves work on multiple matters at the same time and must be adept at switching between matters while minimising any mistakes. It’s a balancing act that requires contingency procedures should something go wrong.
As a bid writer, I would hold this section to be of utmost importance as it is a representation of what it would be like to work with a law firm should they be awarded the tender. A thorough response to this section demonstrates a ready commitment to the client’s objectives and goals.
A weak response lacking detail is equivalent to being interviewed with no preparation.
Value Added Services
In other words, freebies.
Everyone loves freebies and clients always want to hear about any special products or services you can provide at a discounted (preferably ‘free’) rate.
For legal tenders, the services requested are generally ‘legal services’ and as part of a panel.
In the legal industry, I’ve found that law firms offer value added services through fixed rates for certain procedures, complimentary office administration facilities and a certain amount of legal advice to be provided by a lawyer through the phone/email at no additional cost.
Engaging with law firms are an expensive endeavour.
From my experiences, law firms are usually asked to provide a rate card as a pricing schedule. The rate card is a simple table that outlines the positions within a nominated team and how much their rate is per a block of time.
- Partner – $700 per hour (exc GST)
- Senior Counsel – $600 per hour (exc GST)
- Etc, etc
The figures provided above are fictional but demonstrate that seniority of a lawyer equates to higher rates.
Unlike other industries, lawyers avoid fixed fees for their services as it can be hard to determine how long a matter may go on for.
And with that, this concludes how to respond to legal tenders in Australia. Legal tenders themselves are not particularly complex and are relatively cut and dry as to what needs to be provided. Unlike industries such as engineering where extensive technical documents are required, it is the procedures of a law firm in place and the experience and seniority of a team that are most important.
Clients want to be represented by experienced lawyers and feel reassured that if something goes wrong, it can be addressed and rectified quickly. They’d also like to be able to keep track of ongoing costs and are able to determine how a law firm is doing its best to abide by their fees provided.