Effective supervision has always been important from a risk management perspective but never more so than now, with many staff working remotely, some for the first time and having to grapple with new technology and processes.
As it is a requirement of the SRA Code of Conduct for firms to have in place an effective system for supervising client matters, most firms will already have policies and processes in place. However, these processes will need to be reviewed to ensure that they are still workable and effective in light of the remote working and different hours that some staff may be working to fit in around childcare and home schooling. When reviewing supervision processes consideration should be given to the following key areas:
Experience of Staff: The staff that are being supervised and their qualifications and level of experience. For example, qualified experienced Solicitors will not need as much day to day supervision or quality checking as a Paralegal or Trainee Solicitor.
Communication: Good clear communication is key as, in the office, some supervision happens informally as Supervisors can overhear a telephone conversation when someone is struggling or can be approached for a quick sense check of a matter that a member of their team is unsure about or they need clarification about a query they have received from a client.
It is important that good communication continues between a Supervisor and their team to ensure a high level of work and effectiveness is maintained as well as staff morale. Consideration should be given to weekly team meetings and one on one meetings being held via Skype or Zoom. Dates and times for these meetings should be agreed in advance and put in everyone’s diaries so staff can plan their work and appointments around them. An Agenda should be prepared in advance so all staff know what is going to be discussed and what they need to bring and prepare. This will ensure that these meetings are as productive as possible and valuable time is not wasted.
File Surgeries: Allocating a file surgery day each week can also be an efficient and effective way of ensuring that matters can be supervised and allow both the Supervisor and team members to plan and manage their time and work effectively. Staff should be informed of a timeline by which they need to email and confirm to their Supervisor the issues they wish to discuss at the file surgery meeting together with the name and file number of the matter if applicable. The Supervisor should then acknowledge receipt and allocate a time slot to their team member on the allocated file surgery day for the matter to be discussed over the telephone.
File Reviews: It is important that these reviews continue as these are a very effective way of supervising and of being able to identify any potential issues that could turn into a claim or a complaint if not dealt with. Consideration should be given as to whether the number of file reviews undertaken needs to be increased for some staff. It should be noted that file reviews can also help identify any other office processes and policies which may need to be reviewed and amended as a result of people working remotely.
Checking of Work: Supervisors should inform their team on the process for the checking of work before it is sent to clients. Confirmation should be given to each team member of the process that needs to be followed and when the Supervisor will need to receive the work by together with the timescale for them reviewing the work and returning it. This will help staff be able to effectively manage key dates and timelines as well as client’s expectations.
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