Standards of Service: it should be everybody’s business

30 Aug 2019
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We’ve already talked about the importance of staying compliant within your firm when it comes to diversity, cybercrime, investment schemes and more following the SRA Risk Outlook 2018/2019. You may have also noticed that we’ve even curated a series of course offerings to help combat these key issues. But as promised, we’re continuously looking to enhance our training programme in line with industry needs and have recently launched our ‘Standards of Service - Advocacy: The Risks and Warning for Solicitors’ course, focusing on standards of service industry wide. So, for our blog this week, we wanted to talk about why this module is particularly important for solicitors looking to uphold their industry standards and maintain a consistent level of service for clients.

 

Why?
We feel passionately about the fact that compliance as a whole shouldn’t be a one-man job. It shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of a compliance officer or HR manager to be aware of what is expected to remain compliant in all areas of the business, it’s the responsibility of the whole team. If compliance standards are not maintained by all, this may pose a financial risk, especially when dealing with client funds and can also equate to substandard levels of case handling, resulting in members of the public not getting the help they need. Due to this level of responsibility, the SRA has set high standards for the behaviour and professional competence levels expected to help manage the reputation of the profession. Although client satisfaction levels are increasing overall, ensuring consistently high levels of advocacy within and across firms is still an issue which poses a threat as highlighted in the Risk Outlook 2018/2019.

 

This is because poor or inconsistent service level issues are more problematic than they initially seem, especially as lawyers are tasked with representing some of the most vulnerable people in society at a troublesome time in their lives. This has called for further research to be conducted on the current state of affairs, with the SRA and the Bar Standards Board recently commissioning independent research with judges who identified areas where there was room for improvement. There were particular fields of law which were considered the worst offenders, such as advocacy. Key issues have been flagged in the way that advocates deal with young and vulnerable witnesses, with a Circuit judge highlighting that there is a tendency to cross examine people about what they said in a statement rather than what they did, and what actually happened. As such, the SRA research found that there was room for improvement in: advocacy training; opportunities to gain experience; standards of case preparation; and the advocates’ ability to ask focused questions of both witnesses and defendants.

 

However more generally speaking, wider industry feedback has demonstrated that communication and delayed services were flagged as common concerns, sparking a lack of confidence in their legal representative. According to the Lawyerist, much of this could be down to the management of client expectations and the lack of understanding of the process from the client’s perspective. It seems that perhaps both parties aren’t always on the same page, with 62% of clients stating that their top priority is regular communication, whereas 64% of solicitors believe that a positive legal outcome was a priority. So, it’s time to get aligned and take steps towards improvement across the board with a greater awareness of client needs if this situation is to be improved. The SRA is already working to address this issue with its approach to regulation, particularly at the point of entry for advocacy services, but we believe that our upcoming Compliance course can help to kickstart this conversation internally.

 

What we’ll be covering.
We wanted to create a course than would champion compliance, risk management and exceptional levels of service within a firm. This covers key topics such as: trial strategy planning, focused cross-examination, better case management and overall awareness of client requirements, particularly when in vulnerable situations. It’s been designed to challenge traditional ways of thinking and working, functioning alongside your L&D plans for continuous improvement to your firm or organisation’s overall service for clients.  As a short, one-hour Live Online course, you can do it at a time that suits you, adding additional value to your working week by encouraging you to ask questions around service standards and engaging with our expert tutors and learning materials to make changes with longevity. With a key focus on advocacy, we’ll be looking to tackle some of the issues flagged by the SRA.

 

We expect to see new key considerations and industry-specific risks with the release of the next SRA Risk Outlook before the end of 2019, but we must continue to evolve as professionals in light of this and take note of the risks that currently haven’t been addressed. As solicitors and those operating within compliance roles, it’s important to keep abreast of any changes and threats to identify key areas for improvement. Levels of service is one area which cannot and should not be substandard. This is why our newest Compliance course addition is, we believe, much-needed not only to help maintain standards, but to kick-start conversations within your organisation. After all, compliance and standards of service are truly everybody’s business and should be treated as such. For more information about our upcoming courses or to book your place, contact us on 02920 451 000 or email us at altior@kaplan.co.uk