Artillery House, 71-73 Woodbridge Road, Guildford, GU1 4QH

1 Westminster Bridge Road London, SE1 7XW

Postal Address
The Partnership, PO Box 1587, Artillery House, 71-73 Woodbridge Road, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 9DP
Social Media
Contact Us
01483 579 978

Every now and again you get a brilliant idea.  When it happens, like your birthday – you feel uniquely special for the rest of the day.

You implement it and for a week or so you bask in the glow of your own assumed brilliance.

Then it just becomes part of the day job and you realise that it was actually pretty mundane and you wonder why you made all the irritating fuss about it.

I experienced this recently but because it involved technology, there was naturally a good lesson to be learned.

One lawyer’s complaint is another’s idea

Many years ago, ( about 1 year BC* ) a solicitor called me to make a formal complaint.  Which was nice.  Our crime?  Someone in my client services team had told him that one of our solicitor was on the phone when it actually transpired, they were out of the office.

At first, I thought he was joking, but when I saw he was a partner at a CQS firm, I figured it could escalate.  I really didn’t know if the rules included the accuracy of telephone messages; he might have gone all LEO on us, or worse, post some dreadful comment on LinkedIn and “ruin our reputation” like another solicitor threatened to do recently.

It was clear to me that we had to track whether someone was in the office or on a well-earned break to Magaluf.  We could add an “out of office” feature to our case management system, but the problem was always going to be maintaining it.  If it wasn’t accurate, it would have no value – like those spreadsheets that enslaved panel lawyers have to send to their Panel Masters every week – never up to date but it keeps the bullies off their backs for a few hours.

The good news is that we use an external HR system that everyone must use to book holidays – this is essential for absence cover purposes.  If we could extract the data from there, we could share it with our case management system and voila- we would know if someone was in or out of the office.

With that, “Holiday Watch” was born.

And yes –that was my brilliant idea.

The cunning plan

Running a conveyancing business gives you a lot of insight into what really irritates clients.  One of the most common complaints is when lawyers go on holiday and do not tell their clients.  We know why they don’t, but people DO go on holiday, so we may as well face it down.

Which is why our portal checks two weeks in advance to see if the lawyer running the case is going to be out of the office, and lets the client know their dates and who is covering.

Which was actually quite clever because the lawyer doesn’t have to remember to remind the client and it avoids those awkward phone calls.

It was a great feature, and naturally, we took it for granted.

Until a few weeks ago, when a client complained that “… and worst of all, our lawyer went on holiday and didn’t even tell us”.

Once again we adopted the default position.  User error.  “They hadn’t checked the portal … they’d ignored the message …”.

Of course, it turned out to be our fault.

We’d broken it when we fixed a problem with half-day holidays not showing on our internal system.  Given that the “Holiday Watch” was a work of such genius, we’d not questioned whether it was still working.  It was a work of genius after all.

Took about 10 minutes to fix.

Lessons learned

We love technology innovation and know 100% that it is the future of service delivery.

But we have to keep our feet on the ground and make sure we always double-check ourselves.

Otherwise that shiny birthday feeling can disappear pretty sharpish.

*If you have to ask, then where have you been all this time?

As published in

Peter Ambrose is the owner and Managing Director of The Partnership – a boutique legal provider specialising in the delivery of transparent and ultra-efficient conveyancing services.