Government to finally unveil panel of external advisers

Red-tape and lengthy delays once more dog Whitehall super panel

The Government is gearing up to unveil its long-awaited panel of external legal advisers – nearly two years after starting the review process.

The Government Procurement Service is expected to announce results of the review of the 48-strong legal panel – formerly known as Catalist – imminently after making a number of changes to its commercial line-up.

Under the new arrangements, the main commercial panel has been split into  a corporate and a commercial panel alongside sub-panels including IT, real estate and major projects.

Firms were asked to pitch using an exam-style format for the first time, providing hypothetical advice in essay format.

There is a cap on the number of firms that can be appointed to each panel; however, some partners involved in the process have speculated that the number of successful firms could increase.

One partner at a panel firm said: “The most material change to the new panel has been in the commercial/corporate space.

“Previously you could be on what was known as the full commercial panel covering everything, but now they have separated this so that partners have had to make their minds up about which individual areas they wanted to pitch for.”

Another partner added: “It has been a very odd process. The pitch was in the form of exam questions where you had to respond to hypothetical scenarios with advice in about 1,000 words, with no consideration for transactions already acted on.”

The review involved a two-stage pitching process with final submissions handed to the Government in August.

The process, which began in January 2011, has been significantly delayed with the Government confirming in June 2011 that it had extended its existing panel terms by almost a year to compensate for the protracted review.