Research sets the standard

NINE leading in-house lawyers have completed pioneering research looking at quality control for the employed sector.

The work, led by the Law Society's commerce and industry group, is now set to be published in the form of a book or a series of articles.

Charles Twiss, who heads the legal services department at British Gas, says that the project will help to keep in-house lawyers on their toes.

“We recognise that private practice lawyers have improved their act immeasurably and, quite frankly, they are the competition. If we are going to retain our position as in-house lawyers we are going to have to prove that we can do things just as well, if not better,” he says.

The C&I group's professional development committee has canvassed the views and gleaned the experience of a number of in-house lawyers.

Twiss, chair of the committee, is responsible for the introduction as well as a piece on client feedback and assessment. British Telecom's Alan Whitfield has looked at quality standard ISO9000, while Martyn McCarthy has written on service level agreements.

Tony Warnock Smith, of Sanofi Winthrop, has looked at mission statements and Christine Slight, of Cable & Wireless, has reviewed benchmarking. The quality control over-view also includes a piece by British Airways' Owen Highley, on relating to people, and Paul Gilbert of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society has reviewed the value of the in-house lawyer.

Elizabeth Wall, of Cable & Wireless, and Deminex lawyer Richard Vincent Smith have contributed a paper on office procedures.

“The articles are not a C&I group set of standards. People can pick and choose what they like and what they don't like. Most people will find something of interest,” says Twiss.

The committee's next project may involve work on a more formal set of quality guidelines, he adds.

“The thing that struck me is that there is an incredible amount of experience and knowledge out there. If the Law Society has got it, they might as well use it for the benefit of everyone.”

The aim of the work is to build on existing quality schemes, such as BS5750, which are not specifically tailored for in-house lawyers.