In what should serve as another enormous wake up call to traditional UK law firms, central purchasing body HealthTrust Europe is to put together a first-time panel of tech-led alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) from which the University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust will be able to source legal services ranging from high volume, process orientated work to deep specialists. The value of the legal work that the Trust puts out to tender has been previously quoted as anything from £30m to £90m.
HealthTrust Europe is a subsidiary of leading Fortune 500 hospital operator HCA Healthcare. Speaking to Legal IT Insider, chief legal and ethics officer Dale Robinson said: “One of our requirements as an organisation is to put in place a framework agreement for our customers and we do that across all the different categories of things that healthcare might want to buy.”
One of those things is legal services: the last mainstream four-year legal services framework was decided in 2015 and the Trust is out for tender on that again right now.
However, the Trust is taking advice on the creation of a brand new, alternative ALSP panel that will run alongside the traditional panel with the clear intention that it will grow – perhaps dramatically – as the often-traditional public bodies that the trust works for become more au fait with what ALSPs have to offer.
Robinson said: “This time we’re thinking about innovation. We engaged Derek Southall [founder of Hyperscale Group] who gave us an insight into the legal landscape and we’ve decided that, while maintaining a traditional model on the one hand, we would expand into the ALSP market.
“We recognise that the public sector is quite traditional in its view of legal services. We wanted to explore how ALSPs that have a very technology-focussed outlook would assist our customer base to move into a more efficient practice using technology over time. All of those potential applications of technology to the legal space can be put into some of these more traditional public sector-type bodies.”
The Trust has to follow strict procedural rules and, before it goes out to tender on the ALSP panel, is asking for interested suppliers to get in touch in order to help put together the framework agreement by attending a supplier day.
The Prior Information Notice (PIN) says: “Suppliers who respond to this PIN and express their interest in this procurement are advised that a maximum of five suppliers will be invited to the supplier day. These suppliers will be chosen at random by HealthTrust Europe. The supplier day will consist of a one-hour time slot with engagement with the end user and HealthTrust Europe.”
The Trust will use the information gathered to put together an ALSP legal framework that “can be expected to cover legal services focusing on high volume, process-orientated work, ranging from entry level document review to highly skilled and experienced specialists.”
Robinson says: “We want ALSPs to take public bodies on a journey from ‘I have a law firm I like’ to a different stage where we can say ‘what is the art of the possible in legal services in light of the legal technology available now and downstream?’ so they can become more efficient. Ultimately our aim is that there is more money in an NHS provider or a community provider for patient care.”
Those who engage with the Trust now are likely to benefit as Robinson says: “As it stands, we are advertising the opportunity to come and talk to us about how ALSPs see the market and what they would advise us to include in a tendering process. If ALSPs are involved up front, they will have the capability to shape that.”
The traditional law firm panel is comprised of 15 firms, including leading healthcare practices Browne Jacobson and Capsticks Solicitors as well as two local authority teams: Staffordshire Legal Services and nplaw (a Norfolk-based public sector shared legal service). [See below for the full list.] They cover legal services such as: corporate governance; healthcare; contract and commercial; employment-related services; property; finance; and digital and environmental. The tender for the new panel closes on 6 March.
Panel firms are graded for their various specialisms and capabilities and those procuring legal services use a score system to work out who to instruct, facilitated by the Trust.
Dale said: “One of the ideas we have is that we have potential for a really long-term relationship with an ALSP to grow the footprint in that organisation so that they cover, for example, our litigation, commercial contracts and medical contract work.”
He adds: “If I have on day one 100% that goes to a traditional law firm adviser on an hourly rate to a state where 30% is done using AI technology and another chunk outsourced to a lower cost LOD [Lawyers On Demand] type and the remainder through a more traditional law firm, the idea is to make efficiency gains from doing that using the art of the possible.”
The engagement process will last another couple of weeks from the time of going to press and Dale said: “We’re looking generally for anyone who can help us with a technology solution – not necessarily just ALSPs. It’s a question of how we make sure we’re making the best of what’s emerging.”
It is envisaged that the ALSP selection process will be completed by August/September.