We are all professionals. We come into work everyday to do the best for our clients, and most of the time everything goes to plan. But from time to time things do go wrong, a deadline is missed, a critical detail is overlooked, a mistake is made. These can lead to complaints or claims and certainly sap productive time and profit.
Having effective supervision, including file reviews, can help to reduce the risk of these issues occurring. File reviews can identify risk issues giving you the opportunity to tackle them before things go wrong.
What should the file review cover?
The file review is an opportunity to see whether the measures you have put in place to manage risk and compliance are being adhered to.
Commonly in file reviews you will check:
- Whether the file is complete, is it an accurate record of the case, are all notes of phone calls, and copies of letters on there. Have emails been filed.
- Was the letter of engagement and scope clear?
- Compliance with your anti money laundering, conflicts, confidentiality and complaints policies. Has the required information been given to the client, and is there evidence on the file that the relevant checks have been done?
- Have key dates been recorded.
- Whether a strategy for the file has been established, and whether this is kept up to date. This could be identifying the work which needs to be done, or in the case of litigation the negotiating parameters.
- If the client has been kept up to date and whether the matter has progressed in a timely manner.
- Have appropriate costs estimates been given and kept up to date.
Whose files should I review?
You may want to audit some files for all fee earners. Whilst it is likely that senior fee earners do not need any supervision regarding the quality of the legal work, one of the main purposes of the file review is to review whether the measures you have in place for compliance are working, and this applies to everyone.
How many files should I review?
There is no set number. The number will depend on the risks you face and could change depending on whether there are issues with particular departments, teams or individuals. Many firms will review more files for more junior staff, for example, 1 file per month for partners, and 3 per month for other legal staff.
How should I select them?
Some firms ask for the fee earners to provide some files, but a more robust approach to detecting problems would be to randomly select them or in response to some other risk management data such as inactive files, or files which have been opened longer than expected.
What do I do with the data?
You should feedback the outcome to the fee earner and corrective action should be followed through, especially if you identify a breach of the rules which needs to be rectified.
You may also want to reflect whether the results of the review show that the measures you have put in place to manage risk are not being followed. In that case you may want to review the measures and take steps to understand why they are not adhered to. It could be that they are not practical or cause delays, and an alternative solution might need to be found.
Effective file review will help you identify if there are any gaps in your compliance, so you can take steps to plug them.
We have designed a template file review record form which you might fund helpful and can found here on the right hand side.