Taking on new work
Consumer expectations are at their highest - people have come to expect a high quality service at a competitive price. We all have our limits. Before you agree to take on new work, ask yourself:
- Do I have capacity to deliver within a reasonable timescale?
- Do I have the necessary skills and experience to carry out the work?
- Do I have the option to say no to new work?
We know that you can't always say no to new work but be aware of your own capabilities and know your own limits.
Don't be tempted to take on work in an area of law in which you are not confident, or take on more work than you can realistically manage. Excessive work loads are a breeding ground for mistakes, which can lead not only to complaints but to health problems.
If you do find yourself struggling, you can always seek support from LawCare, an independent charity set up to promote and support mental health and well being in the legal community.
Saying no to new work may be easier than having to withdraw from acting without a valid reason after you have agreed to act for a client.
No service is ever perfect and in the rush to meet deadlines, errors can (and will) happen - particularly in this era of instant communication. Some clients have an expectation of instant responses to emails etc, but responding in haste can lead to errors.
Auto-correct and auto-fill in emails is also something to be wary of. Although helpful tools, these can increase the likelihood of confidentiality and data breaches - for which the repercussions may be significant. Simple things like turning your auto - fill off and having someone proof read important, sensitive documents before they are sent, will minimise the risk of complaints being made.
Complaint: The firm failed to identify errors contained in a draft Joint Minute of Agreement. This resulted in the complainer signing an inaccurate version resulting in the Court issuing an inaccurate Decree.
Outcome: The investigation revealed evidence on the firm's file that the solicitor had not cross checked the terms of the draft Minute against the relevant Court papers.
The complaint was upheld. The Committee directed that an overall fee reduction of 100% and £5000 compensation for inconvenience and distress would be appropriate.
Delegation is very important to any business as it empowers employees and can lead to a more efficient way of working. Where work is delegated, ensure that there is a suitable supervision mechanism in place. Before you delegate ask yourself:
- Does the person you are delegating to have the competence and skills to carry out the work?
- Are you confident that the person you are delegating to understands your instructions and their remit in relation to the work being undertaken?
- Do you have a system in place which allows adequate supervision (and support if needed)?
- Is this the best option for the client?
Consider using peer review more widely within your firm. Everyone is capable of error.
To ensure the task is delegated effectively, it requires continuous supervision to ensure it is completed and the results reported back.