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Debus sings praise of legal quality assurance
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Debus sings praise of legal quality assurance

EIGHT MONTHS in the making, a new certification program for the Australian legal profession was officially launched last week in Sydney.Speaking to an audience of nearly 100 people at the launch…

EIGHT MONTHS in the making, a new certification program for the Australian legal profession was officially launched last week in Sydney.

Speaking to an audience of nearly 100 people at the launch of LAW 9000, NSW Attorney-General Bob Debus said the program offered law firms the opportunity to develop their management systems “in ways which ensure efficient, effective and, hopefully, profitable business”.

Integrating the QL management framework, LAW 9000, which is based on international ISO standards, has been developed for the legal profession by SAI Global in close consultation with the College of Law, the NSW Law Society and the NSW Legal Services Commissioner.

The first of a two-tier program, LAW 9000 will be followed by ‘Excellence in Law’, based on Standards Australia’s Australia Business Excellence Framework.

Certification through LAW 9000 will enable firms to display the globally recognised ‘5 ticks’ standards mark.

Quoting the late Philip King, former partner of Allen Allen and Hemsley, Debus said that whatever structure a legal practice adopted, “there were certain essential components around management, service delivery, people and administration which a legal practice needed to ensure business success”.

“One of the benefits of being a member of a professional firm is thought to be its lack of hierarchy: its equality and collegiality — the notion that a professional practice is a college of priests practising an art which should not be sullied by the introduction of crude business procedures. This does not sit well with the realities of business needs,” Debus quoted.

Certification schemes in Australia had “hardly been overwhelmed by a stampede of legal practices clamouring to join”, Debus said. It was rumoured in some quarters that one of the top five national firms did not have a business plan until the mid 90s, he said.

The organisations involved in LAW 9000 have combined their efforts to develop a standard intended to offer guidance and assistance to law firms looking to improve their management practices and business efficiencies.

The College of Law’s managing director Neville Carter said the program was a result of months of planning, detailed discussion and hard work. “It is important to note this is a program developed by lawyers for law practices and will continue to be developed in this way.”

Echoing the A-G’s comments at the launch, Carter told Lawyers Weekly this was about faster and less expensive services to the community. “This is what brings [the College of Law] into it,” Carter said. “The College of Law needed to be working on levels to make firms see the importance of quality management as well as train people in it.”

Wollongong’s Russell McLelland Brown Lawyers (RMB) were celebrated last week as the first firm to be awarded the LAW 9000 certification. Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, partner Craig Osborne said there were two reasons RMB became involved in the program: If a firm’s internal processes are efficient and it turns over work efficiently, its cash flow will improve. Secondly, the standard will offer a recognisable sign to clients that the firm is efficient and of a high quality, Osborne said.

“With the five ticks, competitors will see that if they don’t have these, clients may go elsewhere. The five ticks are recognised worldwide.”

A-G Debus said he was responsible for promoting the highest ethical standards in the legal profession and ensuring they met the requirements of the regulators. “The LAW 9000 initiative includes provisions to meet regulatory requirements,” he said.

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