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The lead up to the holiday season is demanding for practitioners with meeting client and court deadlines, as well as managing an increase in commitments outside of work.

In the last-minute rush to the end of year closedown, important risk management measures can be overlooked. To help avoid unwelcome surprises when coming back to work, we’ve put together our top 5 actions to take before you close the door on 2020.

Review current files to identify and record any time-limits, court filing dates, deadlines or other critical dates to be managed over the holiday period and through January in case someone is delayed returning to work.

Update processes and procedures to ensure Principals have oversight of key dates. Also have clear protocols for file handover if staff are on leave when those dates occur.

Communicate your leave and office closure to your clients before you go on leave. Make sure your communications are clear and help to manage clients’ expectations about staff availability over the break.

Inform your bank of office closures. If there is limited activity expected from your law firm’s trust account or other bank accounts, notify your bank accordingly.

If practicable, ask your bank not to deal with any requests made by email, phone or online to change account details or account security. To the extent any changes are required, they should be done in person by nominated staff with identification.

As a cyber security measure, check forwarding rules in your email account for all mailboxes and if there are any rules you haven’t created, alert your IT department. Forwarding rules are commonly used by cyber-criminals looking to divert money and intercept emails between law firms and clients.

If you have not already done so, turn on multi-factor authentication and check that you have a strong and separate password in place for your email account to keep cyber-criminals out.

Don’t forget to turn on your ‘Out of Office’ on your email and phone voicemail outlining your leave and contact information over the break as necessary.

Make time to switch off personally

Finally, make some time over the holiday season to switch-off, rest and recharge after an extraordinary and challenging year. While it might be hard to do this, it is important for your own physical and mental health and quality of work in the coming year.