In light of the current health situation businesses are having to adapt the ways that they work. The legal sector is no different, with remote staff supervision and client complaints being two key areas.
We have outlined below some key points to consider when addressing these risks.
- Have regular meetings, both as a team and individually.
- Cascade all changes on a regular basis.
- Be flexible. Staff may have additional responsibilities whilst working from home (children not at school / family members unwell).
- Although most firms will require staff to complete their contractual hours, it might be a good idea to allow them to work around their personal responsibilities to meet these requirements.
- Make sure that colleagues have IT technical support.
- Do you have an effective handover procedure for staff who fall ill whilst working remotely? Maybe buddy them up with a colleague from the same team.
- How are you conducting your file reviews? You might be able to stockpile these to the next quarter when (hopefully) things begin to get back to normal.
- How are staff sending out letters and correspondence? If you do have staff in the office, you could consider delegating these tasks to them.
- Who is opening post? Do you have a rota in place for senior managers?
- Record any changes to your normal procedure as you may need to make reference to these in the event of any engagement with the regulator, both during and post COVID-19.
The Legal Ombudsmen (‘LEO’) has said that it will work to be as flexible as possible with service providers impacted by the crisis in situations such as not being able to access archived files to investigate a complaint or respond to information requests.
If you are faced with this then you should do the following:
- It is important that you inform LEO about the circumstances as soon as possible and co-operate in keeping them updated.
- If you are unable to meet the eight week timeframe to respond it is important to let the complainant know so that they do not think you are ignoring their complaint.
- If possible, it may help to give a timeframe for when you may be able to respond. If not, then try to keep the complainant informed at reasonable intervals. You should document any communications.
- If the complainant escalates the matter to LEO then you can demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to communicate the circumstances, and kept them informed of the situation.
- You should also comply with your firm’s existing contingency plans, if any, as far as reasonably possible. LEO has said that it will work to be as flexible as possible with service providers impacted by the crisis and would take their actions into account.