The mere mention of the “C” word tends to fill people with dread and many firms, Partners or owners continue to bury their heads in the sand.
Many firms have changed the structure of their business support showing that there is a significant shift from the misconception of “fee burners” and “fee earners”. Firms have no choice but to become pro-active to ensure that compliance is embedded into the culture of the firm, with employees knowing and understanding the beliefs and values of the firm they are working for. Invest in business support to drive the firm in the right direction.
Compliance is an essential element of your firm's foundation to succeed. It is not about how many accreditations you have, although working within the guidelines of those accreditations obviously minimises the firm’s risk exposure. Are you asking the right questions to know what is happening day to day in your firm? Are all departments linking up to review your risk registers and ensure that you are working in the same page? A smoke and mirrors approach will not help you in the long run, it will purely paper over the cracks.
Engage with employees, communication is key. Every time I undertake performance reviews the reviewee states that there is not enough communication. That's not to say that every little detail needs to be communicated in relation to your vision, it is more to do with involving employees to help you achieve the objectives set by the firm.
Without communication, there is an opportunity for things to slip through the net. By way of example, who is getting ready for GDPR – all of you I hear you shout! How many different personnel are involved in this process to ensure that there is continuity and you are not all doing duplicate tasks? To make this work, you need a joined-up approach.
Ground level knowledge is the difference between tackling any issues head on and burying your head in the sand. We can all hear conversations, but listen to what's going on. Ignorance is not a form of defence if you find yourself on the wrong side of the regulators!
Are you continually reviewing your processes and analysing critical data? Will you as a firm, you as an individual and your employees stand up to scrutiny? Conduct a full 360 review of your business. If you do not look at what you are doing objectively then nothing will change. Praise for the good, review the not so good and put systems in place to change.
Revisit KPI's on an individual, team, discipline and overall basis. It’s all well and good giving your fee earners targets, but are they are achievable and are you ensuring they can do this in a safe environment? What do your KPI's look like – have they been implemented and reviewed to ensure they are the right ones?
Are you conducting independent file audits? It may be that there are trends which give rise to training issues. There are many signs that could show that you have issues with employees or equally that you have individuals excelling that have further capacity or partnership potential.
There is a fine line between micro managing and no supervision. You are ultimately responsible for every employee within your firm. How many times have we recently seen in the Law Society Gazette about lack of supervision? It does not matter whether you are a year qualified or 12 years qualified - there still needs to be an element of supervision. Do you want to be responsible for everyone losing their job?
Every role within your firm needs to work within the framework and, once working within that framework, the benefits will speak for themselves.
In a series of blogs, we will be covering many elements of compliance. If there is something that you would like us to cover please let us know.