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Tag: Legal

Is Latin really a dead language?

We transcribe dictations for thousands of lawyers and medical professionals who all regularly use Latin through necessity. But for a ‘dead’ language, does it remain important for the rest of us? Read More.
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DictateNow advises readers of Private Client Adviser

Our own Maxine Park explains to readers and subscribers of Private Client Adviser, why law firms need to consider carefully the recent Practice Note on outsourcing issued by the Law Society. Private Client Adviser is a wealth management magazine that caters to solicitors, accountants and independent financial advisers, helping explain the legal and regulatory environment in which financial advisers operate, with advice from industry leaders. Maxine’s article offered some valuable advice for law firms looking to outsource as a way of improving efficiency, with a few simple guidelines to ensure they find the right service providers and comply with their obligations to protect their clients’ confidentiality. You can read Maxine’s article here scroll down to read it in full.

Law firms reminded of outsourcing responsibilities

The Law Society recently released a Practice Note on outsourcing and whilst it recognised it is becoming increasingly attractive as law firms seek greater efficiency, it sought to highlight the potential risks and ensure law firms consider their responsibilities. The Law Society points out at the start that the Practice Note is their view of good practice in the area of outsourcing and is not legal advice, but makes it clear that when outsourcing work, solicitors must still satisfy Outcome 4.1 and keep the affairs of clients confidential. This means taking all necessary steps to guarantee that service providers, not only sign adequate confidentiality agreements, but operate in a way that ensures their law firm clients can comply with the SRA guidelines on confidentiality and disclosure. Outsourcing is a natural choice in the drive for greater efficiency, but solicitors remain ultimately responsible for any work outsourced. For some, the perceived risks of outsourcing, possibly re-affirmed with this Practice Note, are slowing the adoption of services already relied upon by the most successful firms. Selecting the right service providers can be a complicated process and there is a danger this will tempt some individuals or firms to take short cuts and leave themselves open to greater risk. Before assessing the relevant merits of individual service providers and the security of their service, the location of the operation is perhaps now proving just as important. Choosing entirely UK-based companies, allows firms to satisfy the need for the SRA to be able to enter the premises of service providers when required, which it could be argued is not necessarily the case with those based overseas. The Practice Note reminds firms they should only outsource services when they are satisfied the provider has taken all appropriate steps to ensure clients' confidential information will be protected. Which raises the question; how do you make that judgment? The first thing you should look for in service providers is whether they have achieved the internationally acclaimed standard for information security management, ISO 27001:2013. This new standard requires the business to set security objectives, monitor its performance against them, whilst addressing risks and opportunities as they become apparent. This more proactive approach recognises the constant need for everyone to identify problems and develop solutions within the context of their own business, rather than just sticking rigidly to a set of general and security standards. The Practice Note also suggests you might consider auditing and checking the outsourcing provider's confidentiality processes, which should largely be unnecessary for those providers displaying the relevant ISO certification. The Law Society also insists that you make your clients aware you are outsourcing aspects of your business processes, ideally set out in client care letter, highlighting the potential risks. Again choosing service providers committed to confidentiality, with the right accreditations, is key to not upsetting clients who may demand to know the identity of the outsourcing service provider. Conflicts of interest is a risk when outsourcing, given the limited number of service providers covering each discipline. From the point of view of transcription services, having a workforce spread across the UK, home-based and not working from a single location ensures conflicts of interest are highly improbable. The Practice Note raises the question about quality of service. The question is whether work you are outsourcing is being done to the same standard as if it had been performed in-house and how you assess the relevant quality. Whilst this assessment of quality is subjective, a good start might be to consider using only service providers with a workforce based entirely in the UK. And of course, the quality of service is clearly going to be maintained if you choose service providers employing individuals with experience of delivering the same or similar services within the sectors seeking outsourcing, whether that’s legal secretaries, IT teams or library and research services. Which perhaps goes some way to explaining the rise in co-sourcing arrangements, when a service provider accesses a client’s system remotely and works entirely within the system as if they were sat in the office. In our experience, this modern approach to secretarial support guarantees all the quality of office-based legal secretaries with none of the down-time, to help increase productivity and efficiency, which must surely be in the interests of both you and your clients. In reality, outsourcing is a way professional service firms can deliver a better, more efficient service to clients, whilst keeping cost under control and increasing profitability. Choosing the right outsourcing partner requires common sense, due diligence, constant monitoring of the service and regular contact with the service provider to ensure they understand their responsibilities. In that respect, I believe little has changed.
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Law Society practice note on outsourcing explained

Our own co-founder, Maxine Park has explained the responsibilities and risks for law firms, following the Law Society’s practice note on outsourcing, to the readers of Practical Law (PLC) for Companies magazine. PLC Magazine is the leading monthly magazine for business lawyers advising companies active in the UK and offers a uniquely practical approach to the analysis of legal developments in a business context – always a great read. Maxine’s article reminds law firms of their responsibilities when choosing to outsource business processes and offers advice on ways to reduce risk, with the choice of UK-based service providers, chief amongst these. For subscribers of the magazine, you will find Maxine’s article in the November issue. For those of you who are not subscribers, we would recommend clicking this link and seeing what you’re missing out on. This is what Maxine had to say: Law Society reminds law firms of outsourcing responsibilities The outsourcing of many non-core business processes remains important for law firms of every size, from the small high-street practice to the multi-jurisdictional giant, who share a common ambition for greater efficiency and improved productivity. Although aware of the advantages offered by this approach, the Law Society recently released a Practice Note to remind law firms of their responsibilities and to highlight the risks posed by outsourcing. The Law Society is keen to point out that the Practice Note represents their view of good practice when firms choose to outsource services and does not constitute legal advice. However, it makes it clear that outsourcing business processes, does not exclude solicitors from satisfying Outcome 4.1 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, which requires them to; ‘keep the affairs of clients confidential unless disclosure is required or permitted by law or the client consents’. The key word here is ‘affairs’. This implies that not only should the client’s data be kept confidential, but also which businesses have been retained by the law firm to undertake work on the client’s behalf. There is a risk, however small, of an outsource service provider making the ‘affairs’ of a client known, without necessarily compromising confidential information, particularly if they have little experience of the legal sector. The first step in keeping the affairs and data of a client confidential, is ensuring service providers undertaking outsourced activities sign comprehensive confidentiality agreements. This might include not disclosing the law firm’s name, or that of their client, in the service providers marketing material, including press releases or case studies. It is important law firms also satisfy themselves that the service provider operates in a way that ensures they can comply with the SRA guidelines on confidentiality and disclosure. Outsourcing offers many benefits for law firms seeking greater efficiency, but it should still not be undertaken lightly. If things go wrong, whatever the part played by the service provider, ultimately it is the law firm that remains responsible; they outsourced the work and the buck stops with them. Although growing in popularity, some law firms have been slow to adopt the full range of outsourced services available. This is possibly in response to the perceived risks, most of which are likely to have been confirmed by the issuing of this Practice Note. But is missing out on opportunities to increase efficiency and improve productivity, already seized by the most successful firms, really good for the future of the law firm and its clients? Of course the risks associated with outsourcing can be largely mitigated by choosing the right service providers. The selection process is important, but with the potential for this to be a long and involved process, some law firms or individuals within them, might be tempted to cut corners and increase the risk. The location of service providers perhaps now matters more when firms are making their selection, with those based entirely in the UK making it easier for law firms to satisfy the need for the SRA to be able to enter the premises of service providers when required – tricky when the service provider is on the other side of the world. The Practice Note reminds firms that before outsourcing services they must satisfy themselves the service provider understands and accepts its responsibilities for keeping information confidential. The Practice Note however, does not suggest on what basis firms should make this judgment. The selection criteria may come under scrutiny and a defined policy will help mitigate any criticism of the choices made. A good place to start when selecting an outsourcing or co-sourcing partner is the internationally recognised standard for information security management, ISO 27001:2013. This certification identifies a business that sets security objectives, monitors its performance against them and address any risks discovered, whilst taking every opportunity to improve standards. This more proactive approach encourages businesses to identify problems and develop solutions relevant to their own activities and the needs of their clients, rather than pursuing a set of rigid security standards. The Practice Note also suggests law firms might consider auditing and checking the service provider's confidentiality and security processes for themselves – largely unnecessary for those with ISO 27001:2013 certification. The Law Society also wants law firms to tell their clients when aspects of their business processes are being outsourced, to allow the client to decide if this introduces any potential risks. Choosing service providers committed to confidentiality, with the relevant certificates in place, will make it easier for a law firm to demonstrate it understands its responsibilities. It will also have nothing to fear when revealing the identity of the service provider, confident the client’s own checks will reveal nothing of concern. One of the more popular outsourcing activities for law firms is transcription of dictation, copy typing and secretarial services. There are a limited number of service providers with the relevant certification offering the various outsourced processes and this raises the question of conflicts of interest for law firms, particularly if work is undertaken by a small team in one location. There is a greater risk of conflicts of interest when using local suppliers, particularly where ‘local interest’ stories are concerned and firms should consider service providers with a workforce spread across the UK, working from home rather than a single location. The Law Society also wants law firms to consider whether they are outsourcing work that could be done just as efficiently in-house and whether it is being done to a standard similar to that achieved if it was undertaken by the law firm itself. Just how firms assess quality is also an important consideration. Outsourcing partners are more likely to match or exceed the quality of work performed in-house if law firms work with service providers that employ people with experience of delivering the same or similar services. If they have experience of working in the same sectors, quality is less of an issue, whether it’s legal secretaries, IT teams or costing services. The need to comply with the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 has led many law firms to consider co-sourcing rather than outsourcing arrangements with service providers, allowing remote access to the firm’s system, to ensure data never leaves the firm and remains under their control. This modern and increasingly popular approach to secretarial support guarantees the quality of office-based legal secretaries, but without with drawbacks. This helps increase productivity and efficiency, which is advantageous for both law firms and their clients. Outsourcing is here to stay. It allows businesses to deliver a better, more efficient service to their clients, whilst keeping costs under control and increasing productivity. However, tHowehere are obvious pitfalls and law firms must undertake the necessary due diligence when selecting outsourcing partners. There is no room for complacency. Firms must review the service they receive constantly, maintaining regular contact with service providers to ensure they understand their responsibilities and work hard to maintain quality and confidentiality.
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Legal Abacus readers discover how to reduce the risks of employment tribunals

Solicitor and co-founder of transcription services provider DictateNow, Maxine Park recently explained to the readers of Legal Abacus magazine, the benefits of recording disciplinary or performance interviews for managers. A bi-monthly publication for members of The Institute of Legal Finance & Management, Legal Abacus is aimed at legal finance, administration and practice management professionals working in the legal sector. The magazine offers its readers news and advice about education and career development, legal accounting and business management, and the wider legal sector as a whole. Maxine’s article highlights how mistakes made during personnel interviews can often lead to businesses facing accusations of misconduct or unfair treatment. It also details the benefits of keeping accurate records of meetings. For subscribers of the magazine, you will find Maxine’s article in the March/April issue. Alternatively, read Maxine’s advice here:

Avoid disciplinary pitfalls by recording and transcribing

When a business gets the procedure wrong and makes a mess of a disciplinary or grievance interview in particular, it can face claims for breach of contract, unfair dismissal and discrimination. So what steps can managers take when conducting performance reviews and disciplinary or grievance interviews, to reduce the risks of employment tribunals? Maxine Park, solicitor and co-founder of transcription services provider DictateNow, explains how recording and transcribing reviews, interviews and hearings can help mitigate the risks: “Some disciplinary matters may be handled informally, but when formal proceedings are required, it is essential businesses follow their approved policies. “Many organisations now appreciate the benefits of making sound recordings of disciplinary and grievance interviews. The retained sound files also allow transcriptions to be made quickly, often within hours and made available to the interested parties. “The first step is to inform everyone in the meeting that a sound recording is being made for the purposes of accuracy and transcription. “The ability to offer a sound file record of any interview, within minutes of its conclusion, is a major component of avoiding accusations the organisation has acted inappropriately, dragged its feet, or has something to hide regarding any personnel matters. “It is important that everyone remembers that every word will be captured, intended and unintended, making it essential that managers tasked with undertaking personnel interviews etc., not only understand the correct procedure but can be trusted to follow it, even in a hostile environment. “Happily, knowing a meeting is being recorded often helps keep emotions under control, on both sides of the table. It generally proves more difficult for either side to become angry or even threatening, when they know every word can be reviewed later by senior management. “Sound recordings also address the often cited grievance that managers failed to keep an open mind about an employee or situation until they have heard all the evidence. Recordings capture every word and emotion, offering context to the words spoken, which makes it much easier to review an issue after the event. “It is easier to ignore any preconceptions and form an accurate opinion when listening to a sound recording than it is reading through notes scribbled at the time. And crucially, a recording will not miss words because it gets involved in a rapid or heated exchange and forgets to make notes. “Digital recording has speeded up proceedings too, avoiding the need to wait for handwritten notes to be typed up, distributed and amended or approved by all those involved. It is often the length of this whole back and forth process that leads to a complaint being made against a business. “Employees will often complain that they were not given adequate opportunity to explain their case or version of events. The knowledge a recording is being made will help ensure managers act appropriately, follow the procedure and give employees sufficient time to put across their side of the story. The recording and subsequent transcription will prove useful to refute any accusation that the employee was not afforded adequate time. “Recording all interviews or hearings can help ensure everyone conforms to the agreed standards, with the sound files used to review the performance of those undertaking the interviews, with appropriate training offered when the review highlights deficiencies in their performance. “For smaller businesses, digital dictation machines or innovative dictation apps for Smartphones and tablets will probably suffice for the likely number of such meetings. Larger businesses with a greater expectation of more interviews, typically with multiple attendees, should obtain conference-style recording equipment, available from leading transcription service providers. “Following the creation of the sound recording, the next step is to get it transcribed ready for distribution to everyone concerned. It can be tempting to undertake transcription internally, but this has confidentiality implications, particularly where redundancies or serious behavioural or health issues are concerned. “A simple solution is to use an external transcription service provider, which helps avoid any accusation of a breach in confidentiality. The best service providers will be experienced in the process of transcribing hearings and interviews, often using qualified legal secretaries, who will sign a certificate of accurate representation if required. “Not keeping accurate records of meetings can cause problems at an appeal stage or if a case proceeds to an employment tribunal. Producing an accurate transcription, together with a certificate of accurate representation and the original sound recording will significantly reduce the risk of a business being accused of not taking things seriously. “Handling disciplinary hearings properly can also help improve standards of work and performance within the business, with a quick resolution to problems and reduces the risk of employees spreading gossip or damaging the firm’s reputation. “Recording and transcribing personnel interviews, reviews and hearings demonstrates how seriously personnel issues are taken within an organisation and shows how determined the management team is to get things right; first time, every time. “Recording can be done without incurring significant expenditure and the cost of using an external transcription service is a small price to pay compared to the potential cost of any accusation that the business has acted inappropriately or handled a personnel issue poorly.”
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