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Jean-Yves Gilg

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Overcoming adversity in 'the face of uncertainty

Overcoming adversity in 'the face of uncertainty


By focusing on areas such as team structure and client management, medical negligence firms can prepare for changes in the sector, writes Georgia Briscoe

With the government overhauling various areas of legislation, the medical negligence sector is operating in a time of uncertainty. As a result, firms need to be prepared for future changes, and responding early on is the only way to ensure sustained success. Firms need to start reviewing current working practices to get the business ready and see where improvements can be made.

As the introduction of fixed fees for medical negligence claims draws closer, greater efficiency of claims handling will play a major role for successful firms, especially
as the time spent by lawyers
on cases will become all the more precious.

Therefore, firms need to look to improve case management where possible, maximising lawyers' time and ensuring
this time is used in the most beneficial way - not just for
the firm, but for the client.

Efficient processes

The first step would be to assess whether the current systems being used are fit for purpose. Large amounts of time, and therefore money, can be wasted by battling with systems and solutions that are outdated or can only cope with basic admin functions. Firms should look to improve systems and business processes in order to become more efficient and cost effective, and gain a competitive advantage.

When systems work well, all members of the team can work quickly and effectively, helping them spend more of their time providing services to their clients. Introducing more efficient processes doesn't
need to mean sacrificing client service. Indeed, the opposite should be the case.

By improving the process in this manner, it actually means that lawyers are not wasting time with slow systems or basic admin tasks, and are therefore free to focus on the legal part
of the process, and how best to serve their client. This in turn benefits the firm.

Following the Jackson reforms and the ban on referral fees, finding ways to attract new clients without third-party involvement has become a huge challenge for many claimant firms. However, successful firms have realised that by developing a strong marketing strategy,
they can completely remove the reliance on other companies. Not only this, but they will have more control over their flow of work as a result.

Building a successful legal brand takes time, and is not easy. However, the resulting sense of stability and the reassurance of knowing work will be coming in via your own means is incredibly satisfying, and again means the focus can switch to how best to help the injured patient.

Supporting staff

With so many questions surrounding the future of the sector, it's also vital to look at the teams in place to ensure they can manage the department's workload - whether this be a sudden increase or decrease in work coming in. Building a strong structure and bringing in quality team members will help to ensure any issues that arise as a result of the upcoming changes are dealt with appropriately.

To create a solid and reliable team, there needs to be strategic planning around
how the team will take shape, along with proper training and support. Having a dedicated recruitment strategy will also
be key to harnessing the best talent available.

Firms should also remember that in times of uncertainty, this could place stress on members of the team. Staff need to feel supported and should be fully informed about any changes that may take place, so they know what to expect in the future. And in case things do
get a bit much for employees,
as a manager, it's vital to be approachable so people can talk and address any issues whenever they need to.

Where possible, it's important to try to relieve some of the pressure, and show that the
hard work being contributed by workers doesn't go unnoticed. Boosting team morale can be achieved by offering rewards and incentives to recognise when staff go above and beyond.

Even more important is to create a working environment that is enjoyable, for example,
by implementing a flexible working policy to give staff
some time off when they need
it, running benefit schemes to reward outstanding work so that lawyers know their commitment is appreciated, or allowing some staff to work from home some of the time, in order to reduce the stress of commuting to and from the office each day.

As the legal sector faces numerous challenges and changes, such as fixed fees, the key to remaining successful is preparation. By assessing how the firm is currently operating, and focusing on areas such as team structure and client management, improvements can be made to ensure the business is ready for what lies ahead. With the future uncertain, now is the perfect time for firms to build better businesses,
which could result in improved efficiency, happier teams, and more satisfied clients.

Georgia Briscoe is head of medical negligence at Fletchers Solicitors @FletchersLegal