- Poor supervision has been the source of a substantial number of claims against law practices.
- With staff working from home the risks associated with poor supervision may be heightened.
- Now is a good time to review how successful working from home arrangements are and to identify potential areas of risk.
It has been some months now since law practices have had to adapt to a new way of working and delivering services to clients. On top of the changes to working environments, many law practices have faced the challenge, potentially for the first time, of supervising and supporting staff remotely.
While lack of adequate supervision of staff is not a new issue, with many staff working remotely the risks associated with poor supervision may be heightened. Poor supervision has been the source of numerous claims against law firms over the years.
When supervision is lacking
In Victorian Legal Services Commissioner v Olayemi (Legal Practice)  VCAT 1283, a young solicitor had the carriage of a nomination and visa application for a client. Upon receiving a refusal letter and decision record, he realised he had made a mistake in the application. According to the evidence, the mistake was an easy mistake to make but fatal to the application.
The solicitor panicked and falsified documents, creating fictitious reasons to cover up the mistake, which he sent to the client. Only when the client accused the practice of fabricating the documents did the solicitor confess the truth to his principal.
In the disciplinary proceedings that followed (and which resulted in a finding of professional misconduct), the principal gave evidence in support of the solicitor. In his view, the solicitor’s reaction spoke more about the pressures he was under than it did about his character. The principal admitted there were failures in the work environment. He admitted he had been placing unreasonable pressure upon the solicitor without realising the stress he was under or that his supervision was lacking.