A new code of Conduct for law practices is now in place. Despite the rather meaningless title Outcome-Focused Regulations, I think they are good, easy to manage and full of common sense issues to help a modern practice run more professionally and thrive.
Now I am not normally backward in complaining about this profession shying away from this sort of change, so I was heartened to read a great blog on the subject in Law Society Gazette. In it, the point was made that this should not be something that people panic over. It is not a big deal, just different but ultimately helps develop management focus in an office and give clients more trust in what we do. Can this really be a bad thing? After journalists and estate agents, solicitors don’t always enjoy the best professional image.
The new regulations include a focus on risk assessment and risk management. A well run firm should be very well aware of the risks it encounters and have systems and procedures in place to minimise and manage these risks. The changes simply ensure that everyone is taking this issue seriously.
OId-style rules assumed that five pages of small print covered the firm when it came to the risks associated with dealing with clients, for instance that fees have been explained properly, what is and isn’t included for these fees, who’s doing the work and whether they are qualified to do so. In that way the firm was covered, but it unfairly put the onus on the client to read the small print all the time. Not very open and honest, but the firm was covered even if the client was not very well informed.
The new outcome focused regs put the emphasis on whether the firm has really explained these things to the client properly and checked they’ve understood. That’s good for the client, who has a better understanding, and good for the firm as they are less likely to have complaints from disgruntled clients as potential problems are highlighted up front rather than coming out of the woodwork at a later date.
My advice is to embrace the changes. They are overdue and make good business sense.