Friday, 9 May 2014

No Time for Checklists

An early mentor of mine had a framed print hanging behind his desk showing a Victorian-era solicitor with a client and below it was written: “A lawyer’s time is his stock in trade”.

Time is money. Yet I often find it odd, when talking with conveyancing lawyers (as opposed to practice managers or COLPs) about pre-completion checklists, they tell me “we are so busy… we simply don’t have the time.”

What they mean is that they don’t think the checklist is important enough. It’s not high priority, profitable or urgent enough to change their processes. Yet, as with most of us, they do have the time to consult Facebook and Twitter. Those activities are important enough.

Where did that time come from?

What did we do before social media was here?

Weren't we busy five years ago?

That conveyancers manage to do conveyancing without a comprehensive checklist system is beyond me. Despite what the public may think, conveyancing is fraught with  complexity. There are a thousand ways things can and do go wrong. The volume of insurance claims is proof.

When Harvard’s Atul Gwande introduced his checklist for surgery, a significant number of his medical peers told him “this is a waste of my time”. However, when asked, “If you were to have an operation, would you want the checklist?”, 94% wanted it.

Of course,  conveyancing is not a life or death situation and comparing a surgery checklist to a comprehensive, dynamic conveyancing checklist may be over the top. However, please permit me to ask the following question to those who don’t have time for checklists:

If your employment contract held you personally liable for the cost of conveyancing errors or the cost of the differential in the increase in insurance premium as a result of an error, would you find the time to use a comprehensive conveyancing checklist?

Don’t answer too quickly.  Take your time.

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