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Shopping for management ideas at Sainsbury’s legal department

Three items merit comments. According to LegalWeek, Aug. 10, 2006 at 9, the supermarket giant’s head of legal, Nick Grant, set up a project team charged with finding ways to reduce external legal spend and bring more work in-house. “The team is composed of four lawyers who meet regularly to discuss four areas of improvement: training, store support, cost control and communicating with the rest of the business.” A broad mandate, certainly, but a good example of a project team (See my posts of Jan. 4, 2005 on virtual teams; Aug. 28, 2006 criticizing teams; and May 19, 2006 on a Nestle project team.).

What secondly deserves mention is that Sainsbury’s in-house department has five groups, each with a leader, covering five areas of “legal specialism” (See my posts of July 30 and 31, 2005 on business unit lawyers and legal specialists.). A business unit orientation apparently has not taken hold.

The third point is the most remarkable. Grant “asked the company’s main external advisers to come up with a fundamental reappraisal of what they can offer the company.” It would be keenly interesting to learn what he ask his main firms to provide; and, even more intriguing to find out whether they diverged from the traditional offerings of firms (See my posts of May 4, 2005 bemoaning the lack of intramural creativity, July 21, 2005 on the low value departments place on law firm creativity, and Oct. 30, 2005 about another survey corroborating this point.).