Legal services tenders are increasingly getting posted onto the Supply2.gov.uk website. You need to sign-up to get started on the site and you can now search nationally for free in respect of contracts of less than £100,000. HOWEVER most councils have their own e-tendering/e-procurement portal so you may need to register several times in several places.
HOWEVER you will automatically be excluded from tenders if the value of the project you are bidding for would be more than 30% of your annual turnover. For some projects this can be 20% of turnover.
As all work over £10k has to be tendered for, this means if you can’t show accounts that prove your turnover is more than £50k, you won’t be able to get the work.
1. Look on the tender sites for notifications to tender to be part of a FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT, Framework Agreements are when a public body knows it will need to put work out to tender, but generally for amounts less than the £10k ceiling. What they will do is get a group of say printers, or graphic designers, or caterers together, and make them exclusively part of a framework agreement usually lasting for 3 to 4 years. If you aren’t in the framework agreement, you can’t bid for the work. if you are in the Framework you stand a good chance of getting one or more contracts.
2. Use http://www.skillfair.co.uk/ which is for small public and private sector contracts and tenders. Its about £150 for a year’s subscription – you can have a month’s free trial too.
3. Collaborate with other small businesses. And if you can’t find anyone to collaborate with, join something like http://www.venmanagement.com/ to get your business involved.
As this becomes a more and more common way to do business, with tenders being put out online and bids placed without identifying the end company to the organisation, it is important not to miss out, particularly with all the government and EU money currently being put into the public sector..
It has become a fact of life for most solicitors firms that sources of work now want some sort of recompense in most circumstances for their business. Some firms have all too readily agreed to paying these, particularly on the personal injury and conveyancing sides, and this has led to the current situation where I have noticed at times a dependency culture creeping in that was not there 10 years ago (mainly because referral fees were not in existence!).
Conveyancers have an achievement listed on their CV of creating new income streams for firms by signing up to an online referral agency to source work from, and others have spoken of how they have developed new work by agreeing referral fees with introducers.
There are clearly alternatives, and with some of the fees and the prices you will need to go down to in order to attract business through some of these sources, you may want to consider these.
1. Get into SEO
Search Engine Optimisation for the uninitiated – basically the idea that someone can see your site when they search for conveyancing on Google for example.
Cost: Nothing if you do it yourself, £175-600 per month for a professional company such as http://www.chesterwebmarketing.co.uk/ If you plan to do it yourself, there is a very good book by David Viney – Get to the Top on Google – thoroughly recommended.
2. Use Google AdWords
But do it effectively. Do not waste your time bidding on the keyword “Conveyancing” – you will find that your balance disappears as your competitors click through to see who you are, and the cost per click will be very high. Make sure you focus on your area, so if you are a firm in Northampton make sure that you bid on the keywords “Conveyancing in Northampton”, or if you have a special offer on will drafting “Will writing in Northampton” with your advert tailored to this, eg; “Buy a Will, get £5.00 donated to chosen charity.”
3. Set up your own Claims Management Company to generate Referrals
A number of firms have done this already, and have a separate business to generate work, which is then handled in house once the referral made and finance set up (if litigation).
4. Set up your own Estate Agency
And not a half-hearted “stick a few pictures of houses in our window” attempt either! You either have to go the whole way and put some effort in, or I probably wouldnt bother. You will almost certainly need an estate agent to run it for you.
5. Set up your own Referral Company
Why not? It does not take that much effort. Simply purchase an off the peg website, and get working on your SEO skills.
The summer of 2009 has been one of ups and downs. We have placed good quality candidates into good quality positions, both in house and private practice, and had a busier July than we have had in about 3 years. In the last three weeks of August, we had more vacancies into us than for the previous 4 months, and there are definitely signs now that the market is picking up. A couple of conveyancing positions again were posted, although these were not particularly of a good standard, and the focus remains on contentious work.
We have had 17 interviews, 10 job offers and 28 new vacancies since our last newsletter in January. All of these interviews have been for employed positions with salaried roles. Smaller firms appear to be recruiting more than larger firms at present, and this probably relates to the smaller levels of overheads the high street and niche firms have to service. Some frustration on the recruitment side including the Legal Services Commission prevaricating over funding for a couple of clients and leading to the withdrawal of a couple of offers..
In fact whilst redundancies appear to have slowed down, some of the volume and insurance client firms are still laying off staff, and I suspect that this will continue for some time until their accounts are more comfortable. A good time to be a small business I think…
Recruitment is done in waves, and the next wave always starts in September, finishing at half term in October and then starting again January.
May 2009 has probably been one of the most disappointing months we have had in the last 4 years. The reason for this is because traditionally May, June and July have been our busiest months each year, but this year nothing much has happened. We often see dips in the level of business in the May bank holiday weeks, but this year it has simply been very quiet.
We have had 5 interviews, 1 job offer and 8 new vacancies since our last newsletter in April. 80% of these interviews have been for for employed positions with salaries.
In the recruitment press at present we keep reading of agencies who are bucking the trend, doing business in new areas, and taking the time to develop other fields. All of this is simply code for “we are not doing very much”. Similarly we would like to pretend that business is booming in legal recruitment, but it is not. If you look in the back of the Law Society Gazette recently, the amount of vacancies has dropped, and only 2-3 of the larger agencies are still advertising, possibly because they have tied-in contracts.
However – it is not right to say that as a result of this the market has completely collapsed. We are still getting vacancies into us and there are still fields of law and geographical locations where firms are short of candidates.
We are aware that there have been large numbers of staff laid off, but the vast majority of these have been from medium to large firms who have taken the opportunity to reduce their wage bill (rightly so as otherwise staring bankruptcy in the face!), and not necessarily because the work is not likely to be there in a few months time (or when the market picks up).
So in summary, the market is not good but similarly not completely gone. We are hearing of lawyers finding jobs across the UK in a range of fields whether by agencies or direct applications. Some firms have indicated that work has picked up and they will be looking to take on staff in the next few months. We have also assisted in the recruitment of conveyancing and private client solicitors where firms have struggled themselves to recruit, as finding quality staff is always different to finding quantities of staff..
As a guide on the recruitment front it has been reported recently that permanent recruitment across the UK is down over 50% in terms of level of turnover for recruitment consultancies.