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Dear Governments, Your Lawyers are not Lightbulbs
In this fortnight's piece, I argue that the state needs to have higher standards when it hires lawyers.
Governments at all levels in India - municipal, state and central - procure legal services. This could be for a privatisation programme, to build infrastructure, draft laws or conduct bidding processes.
Far too often, they approach this as if they were procuring office supplies or roads, relying almost exclusively on price to make their choice. This should change.
When buying knowledge-based services, particularly for matters which are complex, precedent-setting or of national importance, governments should make a subjective, qualitative choice. This involves interrogating the knowledge and problem-solving skills of bidding firms, asking them to explain the approach and methodology they would use to solve the problems raised by the matter. The private sector and multilateral institutions like the IFC do this. Governments themselves do this while hiring architects.
This approach requires more effort and is a bit more expensive, but leads to better outcomes, particularly for high stakes matters.