The lead up to the holiday season is always demanding for practitioners with meeting client and court deadlines and managing an increase in commitments outside of work and end-of-year fatigue.
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 nine actions to take before you ‘switch off’ for 2023.
- Think carefully before taking on more new work
Be wary of taking on any work now that will put too much pressure on you or your staff in the next week and over the holiday period. Taking on new work when everyone has limited bandwidth and is tired can impact on your ability to perform work on all your files to a high standard. It can also potentially lead to simple but costly mistakes.
- Use lists and reminders
If you haven’t already, use action lists on your files to make sure that you don’t miss important steps or action items. Lists should include making sure letters of advice or documents are sent, file notes are made, people are followed up and matter filing is up to date. Don’t be tempted to just rely on your memory when you are fatigued and under the pump.
- Double check and diarise critical dates
Review the status of all your current files to check and diarise any time-limits, court filing dates, contractual deadlines or any other critical dates to be managed over the holiday period and early next year.
Ensure systems are in place so that principals and a second set of eyes have oversight of all key dates. Also have clear protocols for file handover if staff are on leave when those dates occur.
- Perform basic cyber security checks
Check your email account security — especially for 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.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre has published specific guidance on how to check your Outlook email account security. 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.
Maintain vigilance around your firm’s procedures for vetting and approving the electronic transfer of funds by telephone and reading out and back account details. Cybercriminals are adept at creating fraudulent internal email communications between file operators and accounts or management staff. The risks of relying solely on email instructions apply just as much to internal email communications within firms as they do to external email communications.
- Notify your bank of office closures
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.
- Keep your clients informed
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.
- Secure your files
Make sure your active files are stored safely and securely. Practices located in bushfire and/or flood prone areas should ensure active files are stored in a fireproof place raised up off the floor and watertight.
- Turn on your Out Of Office auto reply
Turn on your ‘Out of Office’ auto reply on your email and update your phone voicemail outlining your leave and contact information over the break as necessary.
- Plan time to rest and recharge
Finally, invest in your wellbeing and make some time over the holiday season to rest, recharge and reset. Taking breaks is not only important for your physical and mental health but will also improve productivity and performance when returning to work in the new year.
LPLC Holiday Season Hours
|LPLC will close for 2021 at 5pm on Thursday 21 December 2023 and reopen again on Monday 8 January 2024 at 9am.
We wish everyone a restful, healthy and happy holiday season and look forward to continuing to provide our insurance, claims management and risk services in the new year.