Theodore Goddard has stepped up its partner surveillance by asking all partners for itemised bills for home and personal mobile telephones

The firm's management is restricted from enforcing the request for data protection reasons, and many partners are understood to have refused. The firm hired private detectives in December to make sure that no one leaked details of merger suitors (The Lawyer, 16 December 2002).

Senior partner Paddy Grafton Green said: “There's an ongoing inquiry which started before Christmas, that may be part of that inquiry.”

The firm will also miss the self-imposed end-of-January deadline to present the partnership with a final list of potential merger partners.

It has been searching for a merger partner since last July when it called in consultants Hildebrandt to draw up a list of potential suitors. It has since emerged that Addleshaw Booth & Co and CMS Cameron McKenna are on the shortlist, as well as a number of US firms.

Grafton Green said he was now hoping to hold a partner meeting in early February.