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MINNEAPOLIS-based Commercial Law Affiliates, the world's largest law firm network, claims to be the first lawyers' association to develop a "peer review programme" as an alternative to using costly management consultants.
Under the procedure, an organisation or individual is reviewed, examined or graded by members of their profession. The purpose is to provide a management tool to enhance the quality and productivity of individual law firms.
The programme examines a variety of areas within each firm, including general practice and management issues and practice administration.
Leon Steinberg, CLA president, says: "This is a landmark event for CLA. Peer review has been discussed by lawyers for years, but has never before been implemented. It's programmes like peer review which set CLA apart from other legal groups."
Sir Gerry Neale, partner at Radcliffe & Co - CLA's only UK member so far - says peer review could benefit UK law firms which are in a co-operative grouping, rather than being in competition.
"The good commercial lawyer is often expert at advising the commercial client on how to best organise business, but most often he is blind to how he can best help his own," says Neale, a member of the CLA board.
Managing partners from 16 of CLA's 190 medium-sized commercial member firms are refining the review process and conducting the reviews.
Reviews were conducted on two Minneapolis member firms, Maslon Edelman Borman & Brand and Parsinen Bowman & Levy, by two teams of eight lawyers over a period of around eight hours.
Maslon managing partner Martin Weinstein says it was a "very positive experience" for his firm. "We would have had to pay a consulting firm thousands of dollars for advice of similar quality."