Resilience and dispute management

Recently, I attended the SCA National Conference in Hobart where I spoke about the importance of not only growing resilience in yourself but also teaching resilience in the workplace so that it becomes a fabric of the business and the way that we service our clients.
Resilience to me broadly covers 3 elements:

  1. Resilience in yourself. Do you go the extra mile to get a result?
  2. Resilience in your business. Do you have all the robust systems and procedures, checks and balances?
  3. Resilience in your staff. Do you look for that X factor in your staff or do you just fill vacant positions.

As the strata and community industry has grown and matured, so have the issues that we as an industry deal with become more complex and the types of dispute and dispute resolution processes become more convoluted.
As strata managers are involved more and more in tribunal matters, planning law disputes, mediations and insurance disputes, you are also taking on more risk.  Some of the opportunities for strata managers are:

  • Time recording – find out what you spend time on
  • Debt collection is a good teacher – step by step.  Learn to do your business in stages
  • In litigation, do you charge for:
    • Preparing witness statements
    • Attending hearings
    • Drafting correspondence
    • Going on site
    • Dealing with the lawyer
       
  • In the office
    • What additional things do you do to reduce stress in the office
    • What training is there to assist
    • Value the time of people and your own – what are you doing to be better
    • How do you get emotional composure and stress management – you need to teach it
    • Train in problem solving and change “readiness”
    • Look for tenacity and persistence in staff
    • Physical health and food health
    • Do not compromise on governance and accountability
    • In essence what coping mechanism do you have for your business and your staff – your responsible for them both
    • Shoot the dogs (a great book) – if they can’t make it don’t be shy

As you are more involved in disputes on behalf of clients you are also involved in disputes with clients. Everything you do is subject to review by someone. Disputes with clients (and ensuing court proceedings) arise from:

  • Not following instructions
  • Exceeding authority
  • Lack of power and paperwork
  • Mistakes
  • Negligence and fraud

Everyone is good at keeping records of financials and billing, but very few businesses record and assess client disputes and the lost time and resources caused by dealing with such disputes. Failing to do so means that you forego the ability to see the opportunities in your business, manage the risks and determine the skills and training needed.
Did we lose a client? Was this good or bad overall? What could we have done better?
It is essential to implement systems into your business that allow you to see the opportunities and manage risk, but more importantly, you cannot neglect your greatest asset in managing risk, your staff.

Resilience is learned through experience. It is not news to anyone that clients will more than likely be happy if staff are happy. If management is resilient, but your staff are stressed, overworked and unhappy, then clients will be unhappy and the business will never grow.
Here are some systems which Grace Lawyers have implemented to manage risk, ensure that we understand our business to continuously identify opportunities, and permeate resilience as a fabric of our business:

  1. Risk Management
    • Basic skill development of staff
    • Logging all calls
    • Record management:
      1. Emails – do you save every single one?
      2. Categorisation of all correspondence in and out between clients and non clients (general email files)
    • Task management – how are they actioned?
    • Logging internal emails and correspondence

 

  1. Understanding our business
    • Categorising client and non client tasks
    • Time recording for not only client related tasks but for administration, meetings, training, dispute resolution, debt collection, etc.
    • Analyze all facets of the business
    • Look for opportunities to increase revenue on things you do
    • If they or you can’t do it, question why it is being done at all
    • If staff can’t do it – time for new staff

 

  1. Teaching resilience
    • improve our staff and ourselves not just in legislation but in how to cope
    • additional things to reduce stress in the office:
      1. Mentoring program for all junior lawyers
      2. Buddy system for all other staff
      3. Flexible work arrangements
      4. Some pets in office from time to time
      5. Supporting charities and getting staff involved
      6. Monthly guest speakers to staff meetings – not just legal topics
      7. Vocalise mental health and physical health/diet
      8. Provision of food and general items
      9. Fun days
      10. Weekly treats

It is proven that if you have a good set of systems and procedures in place with well trained staff who are treated with respect and helped to grow your business will grow quicker that you could imagine.  So, try new things, enjoy what you do and above all have fun.