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Loss Prevention Tip #40

The Seven Cs of Good Practice Management

Good practice management supports an effective and efficient practice, often leads to happier clients and helps to prevent complaints and negligence claims.

Here are the Seven Cs of Good Practice Management:

Competence: Recognize your limitations and ask yourself whether you are competent to handle the matter before you take it on. Sections 3.1-1 and 3.1-2 of the Code of Professional Conduct set out the duty of competence and a definition of “competent lawyer”. As noted in commentary [5] to section 3.1 2, “A lawyer should not undertake a matter without honestly feeling competent to handle it, or being able to become competent without undue delay, risk or expense to the client. The lawyer who proceeds on any other basis is not being honest with the client.”

Conflicts: With conflicts checks, check early, check often and check everyone! Section 3.4 of the Code of Professional Conduct prohibits a lawyer from acting for a client where there is a conflict of interest unless otherwise permitted in the Code of Professional Conduct. So, check conflicts as early as possible and continue to do conflict checks as new parties, witnesses and others are brought into the matter. Be careful of joint retainers and don’t forget to make a note in the file that you did a conflict check.

Calendaring: Your tickler system, bring forward system and file review system are integral to good practice management. Make sure you understand how the systems work and that there is a back-up for each system. Consider the risks of the system you have and mitigate those risks where possible. For ticklers, include several reminders before the true deadline and make sure there is another person responsible for making sure that deadlines are met. Make it a habit to set a bring forward for all of your files to keep them moving. File review is important to ensure that files do not slip through the cracks. And last but definitely not least, do not ignore ticklers and reminders when they come up.

Communication: Good client communication starts from the very first meeting with your client. Make sure the client understands what fees you will charge and when, how accounts will be billed and the services that are and are not part of the retainer. Keep in touch with your clients over the course of the matter by whatever means works for you and the client see: Loss Prevention Tip #2: Communication and Loss Prevention Tip #34: The Pitfalls of Texting with Clients. Consider using standard wording or templates to explain common events in the file. Interim billing is also a form of communication with your client so don’t neglect your accounts.

Contingency Planning: Planning for the unexpected (e.g. fire, flood, pandemic, injury, illness, death, departure of key personnel) is always a good idea. A contingency plan protects your clients and allows you to resume practice with the fewest possible hiccups. For more information on what should be included, see Succession Planning.

Consistency: Being consistent can reduce the chances of forgetting a step in a transaction (and may help you sleep better as a result). Checklists, systems and written policies are all helpful in creating consistency for routine tasks and detail-oriented transactions (e.g. opening and closing files, real estate closings) so make them a part of your everyday practice.

Clear Documentation: Documenting everything in your file benefits your practice in many ways – it gives you a record if you ever need to respond to a complaint or negligence claim, it helps with contingency planning because it makes it easier for another lawyer to work on your file and it can save you from having to re-decide decisions that have already been made if you forget them later. The goal is to have a full and accurate record of the work you have done and decisions that have been made in the file. For more guidance, see Loss Prevention Tip #29: Properly Documenting Files.

Following these Seven Cs is a good way to build the foundation for a long and successful career. For more information, you can view the free webinar (password: 6q$309i+) or contact the Director of Practice Management.