Code of good practice for law publishers
The code http://www.biall.org.uk/docs/codeofpractice.doc was formally adopted by BIALL on the recommendation of BIALL Legal Information Group (LIG) in 2005. LIG is charged with two areas touching on the code : • Facilitating good working relationships between the Association and information suppliers
• Providing a forum for problems encountered by individual members and information providers.
The code resulted from discussion on how the association could use its collective strength to improve communication with publishers and to minimise the impact of what seemed to be recurring problems/complaints by our members about suppliers.
Our code was based on the work of our colleagues in AALL but was modified to reflect the culture and context of our five main jurisdictions (UK (England, Scotland Wales & N Ireland) and Ireland. Initially discussions with publishers took place on an informal basis and then a draft was tabled at our meeting with the Law Publishers’ Executive (LPE). This latter meeting takes place just before our annual meeting between BIALL LIG and LPE and is a very useful forum for managing communication (both positive and negative) and collaboration on projects of joint interest.
I am pleased to say that most of the law publishers have signed up to the principles embodied in the code. Some of those publishers when signing made specific reference to or clarification of clauses with which they might have had difficulty. Given the diversity in size and range of services covered by the publishers this was not surprising, and was a practical response to the problem. It would be unrealistic to expect the same timings and level of support from a small independent publisher as that from a multinational database provider.
How much difference has the Code made or what has it achieved ? That is quite a difficult question to answer or quantify but I shall try. The first and most important step was for us in BIALL to think what was reasonable or achievable in our commercial relationship with our suppliers. This in itself was quite revealing. I think that it is easy when things are not going well to focus on the negative and to find even more fault or deficiency in addition to that which first caused the problem. It made our expectations a bit more realistic when they had to be reduced in to writing.
The main effect of the Code was in the day to day operation. LIG is organised so that each member of the Committee is responsible as the liaison for a particular publisher. They should establish effective communication with that publisher so that if a member has a difficulty it can be satisfactorily resolved. This resolution may mean pointing out the article of the code that we feel applies and which we feel has not been followed.
While I acknowledge that it is unlikely that perfection will be achieved by the use of the code I think it has improved communication and expectations on both sides of the vendor/customer relationship in law publishing.
The Code is currently being reviewed by LIG and I feel sure that there will be further developments and I hope to be able to advise you of these.