The new normal? - Processes and Prospects


Will your business need to adapt to succeed?

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It's now clear that Covid19 isn't going away - we may be subject to a series of mini-lockdowns and rapidly changing guidelines before a vaccine is available. Businesses need to start thinking about the changes they need to make to keep staff safe, to continue serving clients effectively and to remain profitable.

In July, we held a webinar with Karen Eckstein, professional risk manager and former lawyer, who showed how professional firms can take advantage of the opportunities and how to address some of the challenges that creates.

The four main areas to address are property, people, processes and prospects. We'll look at each of these separately.

Processes

Internal

IT set-up, data and cyber security

How robust are your IT systems, your suppliers, your kit, your IT support? What would happen if something failed? Do you have sufficient spare laptops, monitors, and bandwidth in the office for staff to dial in remotely? Do you have sufficient licenses for remote working? When do you need to renew those licences?

How secure is your system? Are you vulnerable to cyber-attacks because these are becoming increasingly sophisticated? Do you need to update your data security policies and training? When did you last train staff on phishing, identifying scams etc? Have you got sufficiently experienced IT support to address the issues for staff working at home?

Billing

Clients are more likely to challenge bills as pressures on their finances rise and to pay bills later. Should you ask for part payment upfront? How can you prove to clients that you are billing them correctly? Are staff recording billable hours accurately? Is your firm accepting that there may be an increase in irrecoverable hours whilst new ways of working are trialled?

Cashflow forecasting

You will need to keep a close eye on your cashflow, perhaps asking your accountant to help with re-forecasting. There are a number of areas where costs savings can be made (renegotiating office arrangements and staff working patterns) but this usually takes time to affect cashflow.

Supplies

How do you order your essential supplies e.g. printer ink, paper, stationery? How are they going to be signed for, or received? And how are you going to distribute them to your staff? Who will receive and scan/email post to the appropriate member of staff if they are not working in the office? What happens when boxes of files are delivered to the office e.g. wills and probate matters? Who scans those in?

External

Clients

If you haven't met a new client, how are you going to verify their ID? How are you going to deal with client meetings? What processes are you going to put in place to review client issues? There will be more distance selling and possible contract cancellations than previously. Do you need to review your engagement letters, SLAs, and terms of business? Have you met all existing terms during the crisis? Have you breached any during the crisis? What do your SLAs prescribe in terms of travel?

Insurers

Do you need to inform your insurers of any substantial changes that have taken place? Have you breached any terms in your policies? Are you regularly auditing your files to ascertain whether there are any errors or circumstances that need to be notified? Are there any mistakes that could be put right if you identify them now?

Remote supervision and monitoring

How do you supervise your teams remotely? Do you need to supervise across teams as well as linearly? Do you need to put plans in place for increased supervision of junior staff? Is it now time for an external audit to address any early issues? Should you be auditing files more frequently and what should those audits cover?

I noticed that staff, particularly junior staff, do not understand the importance of adding emails to the case management system promptly. I recently had to deal with a case where emails hadn't been put on the case management system for at least a year, but emails were deleted from the email inbox after a year. Can your case management system automatically drag emails into the files?

Do you need automated reminders on cases that involve a team? Do you know what escalation processes you need to put in place?

What is your email policy? Does it need updating as staff work remotely? How do you ensure that emails are sent in an appropriate manner and at appropriate times when emails are sent remotely? If a junior previously had emails signed off before they were sent how do you update this for remote working? How can you ensure a junior working from home has considered all relevant information?

You need to be regularly reviewing your policies and the procedures to update your risk register and to ensure you are prepared if there is a second wave or lockdown.

To read about the planning considerations for your people click Preparing for the new normal - People.

To read about the planning considerations for your property click Preparing for the new normal - Property.

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