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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Panel Guidance Material? Go to Top

The Panel Guidance Material is a guide for agencies using the Panel. It reflects the design of the Panel, and the flexibility framework available to agencies using the Panel.

What documents mandate the Panel? Go to Top

The Panel is mandated for NCCEs by the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. It is proposed that the Legal Services Directions will also be amended to reflect this from February 2020.

Over the life of the Panel if personnel change what is the relationship between AGD and legal services providers on the Panel? Go to Top

AGD will manage the Head Agreements with legal services providers and deal with systemic issues. Legal services providers are required to comply with the Head Agreement. This includes reporting on expenditure and other matters and advising of any change in Key Personnel in the format specified in the Head Agreement.

What is the provision for merging legal services providers or legal services providers that lose personnel? Go to Top

Legal services providers were assessed as part of the value for money assessment on factors including their Key Personnel. The Head Agreement contains provisions about replacing Key Personnel. If a legal services provider loses Key Personnel or a substantial proportion of its personnel in a particular area and is not able to demonstrate that it has replacement personnel, AGD may make an assessment as to any impact on the firm's ability to participate in a Practice Area or Area of Law.

How were evaluations undertaken to establish the Panel– particularly in regard to smaller enterprises and demonstrating their capability? Go to Top

The tender was conducted in accordance with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules 2019. This included a value for money assessment for both legal service providers of all sizes on the basis of demonstrated capacity, experience, pricing and compliance with other criteria such as pro bono. The Department of Finance oversaw the process.

When legal services providers report on Gender Equitable Briefing is that only for counsel engaged for Commonwealth agencies using the Panel? Go to Top

Yes. The reporting required under the Head Agreement only relates to work done under the Panel arrangements for Commonwealth agencies or Corporate Commonwealth entities that have opted in to the Panel arrangements.

Will Legal Services Providers rates be made public? Go to Top

Legal Services Providers' Panel rates will not be made public and will remain confidential. The rates will be available to agency users of the Panel on a confidential basis.

If a requirement for work goes across Practice Areas, does the agency need to choose someone who has been selected for these Practice Areas? Go to Top

The Legal Services Panel Portal will allow agencies to search for legal services providers across multiple practice areas to determine which provider or set of providers might best suit their needs.

What does being "on the Panel" mean? Go to Top

Legal services providers were selected for the Panel for one or more Practice Areas for which they were assessed to provide value for money. "Using the Panel" means using a legal services provider for a Practice Area for which they were selected for the Panel. Using a legal services provider for another Practice Area for which the legal services provider is not on the Panel, is considered "off-Panel" as it is not in accordance with the value for money process.

Who are the users of the Panel who can purchase legal services? Go to Top

All non-corporate Commonwealth entities are required to use the Panel for their external legal services subject to the exceptions provided in the Flexibility Framework. Corporate Commonwealth entities and Commonwealth Companies can decide to opt in to use the Panel. Once they opt in and pay the Panel Fee, CCEs will be given access to the Panel on the same basis as other agencies.

Is there a generic Head Agreement that agencies can see? Go to Top

The generic Head Agreement will be accessible on the Legal Services Panel Portal. The Head agreement is a deed of standing offer between the Commonwealth and each legal services provider. Each Head Agreement is identical except for 1) the Practice Areas that the firm is on the Panel for; 2) the rates at which the legal services will be provided; 3) value adds offered by each firm; and 4) Key Personnel nominated by each firm for each Area of Law.

What is an Area of Law and Practice Area? Go to Top

"Areas of Law" are broad categorisations of legal services, for example, Corporate and Commercial, Property and Environment or Public Law are Areas of Law. "Practice Areas" are the categories of legal services that fall within an Area of Law, such as Intellectual Property is a Practice Area that falls within Corporate and Commercial Area of Law. Legal Services Providers were selected for the Panel based on a Practice Area level based on their demonstrated experience and pricing.

Is there any change to engagement of Counsel? Go to Top

There is no change to the engagement of Counsel.

Do agencies have to spend a certain amount to access value adds? Go to Top

Value Adds are provided by most legal services providers. It would be preferable that agencies have or intend to purchase legal services from a provider when seeking to access value add services, and some value adds are qualified with conditions to that effect. Agencies are also able to negotiate additional value adds with providers that they engage.

How do we know which legal services providers were successful in the Panel procurement? Go to Top

Legal services providers are on the Panel for one or more Practice Areas. The outcomes of the Panel will also be published on the OLSC "purchasing legal services" website: https://www.ag.gov.au/LegalSystem/LegalServicesCoordination/Pages/purchasing-legal-services.aspx . The Legal Services Panel Portal allows agencies to view the legal services providers that are on the Panel for each of the Practice Areas.

My agency has a current work order for legal services issued under pre-existing panel arrangements that will continue pass 14 February 2020. Will this expenditure form part of our 10% off-Panel allowance? Go to Top

The Panel and its flexibility framework commenced on 15 August 2019 and applies only to engagements from that date. Legal work for which a work order is in place under a pre-WoAG Panel arrangement is therefore not subject to the WoAG Panel Flexibility Framework. Accordingly, such work orders, even if they continue past 14 February 2020, will not count towards your agency’s 10% off-Panel allowance.

When will there be another opportunity for legal service providers to get onto the Panel? Go to Top

It is not envisaged that a refresh of the Panel will occur until the end of the term of the Panel, which is 3 years with 2 one year options to extend. This timeframe acknowledges the cost and effort for government and providers that was associated with an extensive value for money tender process leading to the selection of the legal service providers appointed to the Panel. However, AGD retains a discretion to refresh the Panel at an earlier date.

Is there a performance management framework for the Panel? Go to Top

Yes, Schedule 7 of the Head Agreement outlines the performance expectations of legal service providers on the Panel. Namely, performance will be assessed against the following criterion: legal expertise, communication, customer service, value for money and participation in Gender Equitable Briefing.

How will feedback from agencies on legal service providers be managed? Go to Top

AGD is considering providing a rating functionality within the Legal Services Panel Portal to allow agencies to rate legal service providers against the performance expectations contained in Schedule 7 of the Head Agreement. These ratings would be moderated before being visible to agencies on the Portal on a confidential basis. Legal services providers would only be able to view the ratings that relate to their firm.

How can an agency user see the full head agreement with a legal services provider including value adds? Go to Top

The template Head Agreement on the OLSC Purchasing Legal Services website and on the Legal Services Panel Portal contains the terms of the Head Agreement that are the same for every firm on the Panel. The unique information about each firm - firm name, contact details, approved Practice Areas, rates and locations, Key Personnel and value add services – are all available on the Legal Services Panel Portal.

How secure is the Portal? Go to Top

The Legal Services Panel Portal has been developed by AGD's Information Division based on the Digital Transformation Agency’s digital marketplace. It is designed to store information classified up to Official: Sensitive. The Portal should be used to search for and engage legal services providers but not to send information that would require a higher classification.

I have forgotten my password, how do I reset it? Go to Top

Visit the Legal Services Panel Portal login page at https://legalservicespanel.gov.au click ‘Log in’ in the top right hand corner and click the “Forgot your password?” link.

When asked, the user must enter their Legal Services Panel Portal login email address. An automated email with a password reset link will be sent to the user’s email address.

The user should follow the instructions in the email to reset their password. Users should always use a different password to the previous ones they may have used for the Legal Services Panel Portal. The Portal will not accept any of your 8 previous passwords.

Alternatively, contact one of your agency’s Legal Services Panel Administrators and they can reset your password. A password recovery email link will be sent to your nominated email address and then follow the steps in the email to reset your password.

My user account has been created, but the link sent to my email does not work and an error message appears stating “Password reset link invalid” (or “Invalid token”). What do I do? Go to Top

If more than 24 hours has elapsed since the link was sent to the user’s email address, the user may receive an error message “Password reset link invalid” or “Invalid token” when attempting to set/reset their password.

Go to Legal Services Panel Portal login page at https://legalservicespanel.gov.au click ‘Log in’ in the top right hand corner and click the “Forgot your password?” link.

When asked, the user must enter their Legal Services Panel Portal login email address. An automated email with a password reset link will be sent to the user’s email address.

The user should follow the instructions in the email to reset their password. Users should always use a different password to the previous ones they may have used for the Legal Services Panel Portal. The Portal will not accept any of your 8 previous passwords.

We are a legal services provider and need assistance with the Panel and the Panel Portal, who can help us? Go to Top

The External Legal Services Panel Team is available to provide limited assistance and guidance to legal services providers on the Panel and the Panel Portal. Please note it is a small team funded by agencies. Please refer to these FAQs, the Guidance Material and the Portal User Guide as a first point of call. If you then require further assistance please contact the External Legal Services Panel Team via email at LSpanel@ag.gov.au.

Why can I not create other user accounts? Go to Top

Only people with administrator account access can create users. If you need to become an administrator, an existing administrator in your team is required to email the request to LSpanel@ag.gov.au and the External Legal Services Team will be able to promote the user’s access to administrator.

Administrators are able to add users, modify user’s email address, reset a user’s password and deactivate user’s account. AGD is currently developing further functionality in the Legal Services Panel Portal, which will allow agencies to submit RFQs and Orders within the Portal. At this time, a person with administrator access will be able to view all RFQs and Orders of the agency through the Legal Services Panel Portal.

As an agency user, I need assistance with how to use the Legal Services Panel Portal and advice on how we engage with LSPs through the Panel, can the External Legal Services Team help? Go to Top

The External Legal Services Team is available to provide limited guidance on the use of the Legal Services Panel Portal and on the engagement of LSPs through the Panel. However, agencies are encouraged to refer to these FAQs, the Panel Guidance Material and the Portal User Guide as a first point of call. These are both available on the OLSC Purchasing Legal Services website. If you require further assistance please contact the External Legal Services Team via email at LSpanel@ag.gov.au.

Agencies are required to comply with any agency specific procurement rules, such as Secretary’s Instructions or Accountable Authority Instructions (AAIs) while engaging with the Panel. The External Legal Services Team administers and manages the Panel. For procurement advice, please contact your agency’s procurement team or Department of Finance.

Are the rates included for LSPs and AGS in the Legal Services Panel Portal inclusive or exclusive of GST? Go to Top

All rates listed in the Legal Services Panel Portal are inclusive of GST. The rates listed in the Legal Services Panel Portal for AGS are exclusive of GST because GST is not payable by non-corporate Commonwealth entities for legal services provided by AGS. However, GST will be charged on legal services provided by AGS to corporate Commonwealth entities and Commonwealth companies and will be in addition to the rates shown on the Legal Services Panel Portal.

What type of functionality does the Legal Services Panel Portal have? Go to Top

There are two types of users, ordinary users and administrators. Only an administrator can create other users for their organisation. An agency or legal services provider can have multiple administrators. For security reasons, administrators can create only ordinary users, that is, users who cannot themselves create other users. On request from an administrator, AGD can promote a user to an administrator. Full portal instructions are available on the OLSC Purchasing Legal Services website.

We are a legal services provider and need assistance with the Panel and the Legal Services Panel Portal, who can help us? Go to Top

The External Legal Services Team is available to provide limited assistance and guidance to legal services providers on the Panel and the Legal Services Panel Portal. Please note it is a small team funded by agencies. Please refer to these FAQs, the Panel Guidance Material and the Portal User Guide as a first point of call. These are both available on the OLSC Purchasing Legal Services website. If you require further assistance please contact the External Legal Services Team via email at LSpanel@ag.gov.au.

Are there any provisions regarding data security and what would occur if there was a data breach? Go to Top

Legal Services Providers are required to comply with the Head Agreement requirements in relation to data security and data breach reporting. A template Head Agreement can be found on the Legal Services Panel Portal and the OLSC "purchasing legal services" website: https://www.ag.gov.au/LegalSystem/LegalServicesCoordination/Pages/purchasing-legal-services.aspx .

Who is responsible for what reporting? Go to Top

Legal Services Providers are responsible for reporting Panel expenditure on a quarterly basis as required by the Head Agreement. Legal services providers will also report annually on matters including pro bono work, value adds and gender equitable briefing. Agencies will also need to report all legal expenditure for the first year, to ensure accurate data, while the legal services providers become accustomed to the reporting framework. Agencies will need to report on an ongoing basis on internal expenditure, off-Panel expenditure including transitional matters, direct briefs to counsel and related disbursements.

An agency is not listed in the reporting template. How do we report on work undertaken for these agencies as a legal services provider? Go to Top

If the agency is not available in the drop down list within the reporting template provided by AGD, please type in the agency's name (as detailed in the PGPA Act Flipchart) manually into the template. You will also be required to manually enter the agency's ABN.

What information will legal services providers report in their quarterly legal services expenditure report? Go to Top

Legal services providers will report quarterly on work done for agencies participating in the Panel arrangements under the Head Agreement. This will be matters that have commenced since the Panel was established on 15 August 2019. The legal services providers’ reporting will be provided on an accrual basis, which means that they will report on the value of legal work done, including work that has been billed and paid, work that has been billed and work-in- progress that is yet to be billed. It will be reported on a matter by matter basis. AGD is developing tools for agencies to view reports on work that firms have done for their agency.

What is the difference between bundling and parcelling? Go to Top

Parcelling was a procurement process undertaken within the (Legal Services Multi Use List) LSMUL that expired on 30 June 2018. As the Panel has been established through a procurement process that satisfies the Commonwealth Procurement Rules, bundling does not need to be a procurement process and can be done relatively informally. Agencies can seek better pricing from any provider or group of providers on the Panel for the Practice Area to which the work relates, through a RFQ which describes a legal task or a bundle of legal needs for which the quote is sought.

Is there flexibility for agencies to obtain more favourable rates than the Panel rates? Go to Top

Yes. Panel rates are maximum rates. Agencies can negotiate better rates with legal services providers on the Panel through a Request for Quote or bundling arrangement with Panel legal services providers.

Can you expand on the bundling process? E.g. how does it work practically? Go to Top

The bundling process means that agencies can seek better pricing from any legal services provider or group of providers on the panel through a Request for Quote which describes a single legal task or a bundle of legal needs for which the quote is sought.

How does a bundling arrangement work in practice? Go to Top

A bundling arrangement is an agreement with one or more Legal Service Providers (LSPs) on the Panel to offer their Services under the Head Agreement, with additional bundled terms and rates. Agencies may decide to either sign contracts or deeds with firms to provide the bundled Services under the Head Agreement, or issue orders to the firms under the Head Agreement. Either would be a procurement from the Panel, and therefore subject to reporting requirements (both under the Panel and the CPRs) like any other procurement from a Panel. Under the LSMUL, agencies undertaking “parcelling” established deeds of standing offer. This is because the LSMUL was not a panel and full procurements needed to occur each time. However, under the Panel arrangement, bundling is a much simpler and streamlined process, there is no need to undertake a new procurement process, whether a deed or order is utilised to obtain bundled legal services.

Up-to value contracting (bundling)

If an agency chooses to enter into a contract or deed with a firm to provide bundled services under the Head Agreement instead of issuing repeated work orders, the agency should report the expected (capped or ‘up-to’) value of the bundled orders that are anticipated to be entered into under the contract or deed (where the value of the contract or deed is at or above the reporting threshold). The contract or deed must be reported on AusTender as a contract notice within 42 days of the agency entering into or amending the contract or deed. This could occur even if the bundling contracts or deeds provide no guarantee of work. If the contract is reported in this way, individual requests for work within the contract or deed would not need to be reported individually. Agencies should ensure that they manage these arrangements to ensure they’re not exceeding the original procurement and, if amendments are made, report these amendments if required.

Individual purchase orders

Where an agency issues orders to firms under the Head Agreement (where a bundling contract or deed has not preceded the order), the agency should report the value attributed to each order (if the value of the order is at or above the reporting threshold). Orders must also be reported as contract notices on AusTender within 42 days of entering into or amending the order. Entities using the Panel are only required to report contracts (or amendments to contracts) which are valued at or above the reporting threshold. For example, if an entity enters into multiple contracts for $5,000, there is no requirement to report these contracts on AusTender, even though they add up to an amount that meets the relevant reporting threshold. However, entities should not split procurement processes up to avoid the relevant thresholds.

In both cases, agencies should be mindful that any resulting order for services are being obtained under the Head Agreement and its terms, and would therefore be reported under the same SON (SON3622041).