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Finalists: Coventry Building Society (highly commended).

Exam and qualifications regulator Ofqual was victorious in the legal services procurement innovation category for its efforts to speed up and broaden its access to lower-cost external services.

Given its niche legal requirements (which are non-transactional and typically necessitate specialist advice on novel public law questions), finding appropriate counsel can be challenging. While the regulator has access to the Attorney General’s Panel of Counsel (which can often perform work at a more competitive price), counsel are not always readily available, causing matters to be delayed.

And with a 50% cut to the regulator’s external legal budget, it is now more of a struggle to afford traditional law firm fees. To tackle those problems, Ofqual decided to target junior barristers as the best means to get quick access to legal advice at a cheaper rate – chiefly because there are a lot of them, they are flexible and they are keen to undertake work to advance their careers.

To that end, Ofqual hosted two half-day sessions to introduce junior barristers to its regulatory approach and the type of work likely needed to be carried out, successfully signing up a panel of 36.

“An innovative move for a regulator,” remarked a judge.

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