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Avoiding Negligence Claims: Delegate Your Staff

The right people for the job and is it a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’?

TIP 7. 

Make sure the people assigned to a client have the experience and qualifications to deliver the right advice. If a junior member of staff is assigned a weighty task, supervision is crucial. 

Have you heard these before?

“Sorry, the file was passed to me for research on an obscure and difficult point. It’s been festering on my windowsill ever since…”

“I have the file for research – unfortunately, I went sick the day after it was given to me and I forgot all about it until the client stormed in and demanded an explanation for the delay dealing with his matter…” 

Here’s another example:

To take another example, a claim against someone who had driven a lorry into a property came unstuck through an advisor’s lack of experience.

It all seemed straightforward at first, with the main point being damages. But an issue came up about the extent of building repairs needed, followed by liaison with experts and technical documents. This kind of claim had the volume of documentation and complexity that required a senior lawyer. This was the case until a few months before the trial of the claim in court. 

But then the case had been delegated to a junior lawyer ill-equipped for the task who ended up in daily rows with the barrister while experts started to communicate directly with the client and other experts started to communicate with each other. The clients started drafting their own witness statements. 

It was clear that the supervision was inadequate and that the junior lawyer really had no experience in handling claims of this nature. All of this chaos ended with the lawyers facing a hefty bill for negligence. The claim against the lorry driver under settled and successfully sued the lawyers concerned.

Support and supervise your staff

In my view, supervision does not mean keeping senior professionals away from earning fees or having unrealistic standards, but it is about competent or effective management of staff. It is effective knowing your staff: -

  • What are their training or development needs and what experience do they have or what skills do they have?
  • Organising levels of supervision dependant on the complexity of the work.
  • Being proactive – delegate the task not the responsibility, a delegated file remains your responsibility. Keep a central record of delegated files and review files regularly.

You are busy, you employ new staff, you defer the problem for a few months, it will come back to bite you. Supervision must be proactive.

If you need any advice or help, contact Karim.


Just in case you missed the other tips: