Risk management should always be on the agenda for lawyers and practice managers. But it can take time and is often overlooked in a busy office. Follow these quick and effective tips to see real improvements and make better use of FilePro in the process.

1. Use FilePro properly

This might seem obvious, but as someone who trains lawyers on how to use FilePro, I am constantly surprised by the amount of people who have been using the system for some time and only know the basics.

They’ll often admit this is because they never received training. Not having all staff trained properly is poor risk management, but also a bad use of your business’ investment in FilePro.

Steps to take:

  • Have the FilePro Essentials course be part of your employee onboarding process. Even if they say they’ve used FilePro before, training will ensure they can use it fully and safely.
  • Arrange some in-house training for all existing staff to do a refresh or reboot for those who have missed (or forgotten) the Essentials Training

2. Ensure all contacts are in FilePro and up to date

I recently talked to a family law firm that discovered a person applying for an administrative job was the de facto of a current client. If they had not kept their contact cards up to date, this could have caused some embarrassment and a potential confidentiality issue.

Steps to take:

  • Add all current staff and anyone who applies for a job to your contacts
  • Add all referrers, associates, suppliers etc – unwittingly acting against these people might not only be a conflict of interest, but if not, just bad for business. This can also help with business development tracking.
  • Add people you’ve targeted for business development. If you’ve had coffee with someone, adding them as a contact will ensure your practice isn’t inadvertently acting against them
  • Other lawyers, barristers, court officers, government departments/employees that your office deals with.

Once all contacts are entered and updated, then it’s easy to add the contact to a file so that you have details of email/phone/address on the file.

Make sure that you update FilePro’s contact card. If staff change details relating to the contact on a file, the change doesn’t get relayed back to the contact card. But if it’s made on the contact card, it’s automatically updated wherever that contact appears in FilePro.

3. Require all staff to work in FilePro

Of course, this will have exceptions, but I have come across people using FilePro who also use Outlook or Word. This can work – emails get saved to FilePro and documents eventually get attached to the file, but it creates more work and extra risk.

FilePro offers significantly better and safer ways to manage all documents and client communications.

Steps to take:

  • Instead of emailing a draft document for internal review using Outlook, use FilePro’s ‘Request Review’. Reviewing documents within FilePro ensures version control – this is especially useful if multiple people are working on a document.
  • When sending an email to anyone out of the office on an open file, send the email from the relevant FilePro file. It will be saved on the file and you can automatically PDF any document that might need to be attached for added security.
  • Have all email recipients added as a contact to the file. This will make make emailing quicker and ensure contact details stay up to date.
  • All documents should be created, amended and stored in FilePro. Lawyers working and storing documents outside of FilePro create risk of loss, version control and consistent standards. Creating a document in FilePro from a saved template and using ‘versions’ when making changes is a good time-saving practice and keeps track of who has changed what.

4. Check everyone can use global search

This is the most effective tool for conflict checks as it searches across all contacts, files, documents and other categories. It’s the Google for your FilePro database. It’s also great for finding documents and precedents.

Steps to take:

5. Set warning for limitation dates and cost agreement limits.

You can attach your client’s cost agreement value to their file, setting warnings for when you approach and pass the value. These warnings will appear when you add new timesheets for the relevant files. And you can set warnings for when you are getting close to limitation dates.

Steps to take:

6. Put risk management on the agenda

Risk management is not at the front of most people’s minds. Often, these steps are only considered once it’s too late. Small reminders throughout the month and year will ensure people understand the importance of risk management and make it more likely they follow these steps. Remember, your firm is only as safe as your riskiest employee behaviours.

Steps to take:

  • Ensure the FilePro newsletter is circulated to everyone in the office. Instead of forwarding the email to others, have each person subscribe directly.
  • Include “Risk Management” as an item in staff meetings. A consistent and methodical approach will always improve Risk Management more than 1-2 hours of compulsory training once a year.
  • Discuss one of more of the items in this article, check-in with staff as to who is using specific items.
  • Audits, review and feedback. As daunting as it sounds, it is important to double-check that staff are following protocols and using systems properly, e.g. conflict searching isn’t a ‘set and forget’ procedure, the person responsible needs to be doing a full and correct check, every time. For practices that are “Quality Assured” this is familiar territory, but for all practices some kind of auditing/double-check is called for.
  • Consider risk management training for non-legal staff. While lawyers might be encouraged or required to do training by their insurers, this does not mean that other staff in the practice wouldn’t also benefit too.

In conclusion …

Commit to small and achievable changes. Keep Risk Management on the agenda. And if you would like any in-house tailored training for your staff on using FilePro for better Risk Management speak to your State Manager.

About Cathryn Urquhart

Cathryn facilitates the Legal Practice Management Course at the College of Law -WA, presents training for FilePro and delivers CPD training to law firms. She was a lawyer in a former life working as a SA in 2 large firms and at Law Mutual (WA), PI insurer in WA, managing claims and presenting Risk Management.