For fun, I took a handgun safety class once. During all nine hours of the class, the former Marine captain made us do every maneuver only after first looking around us to develop “situational awareness”. I had never made myself regularly do that as a habit. I now look around parking areas and walkways, as a habit, because his comments made real sense. Be aware of where you are and what is around you. You will see things quite literally and avoid many issues by having your head up and looking around.
This same concept really applies in law offices where you want to avoid personnel or client problems. When there is a big issue of these types, you usually find after the fact that someone had knowledge, or was generally aware that something was not right. They just did nothing about it. They did not pay enough attention. So, I am now preaching situational awareness to you in the loss prevention business for lawyers. (See November 2013 Post for examples to look for and consider.)
A lawyer from Ames & Gough, an insurance broker specializing in law firm coverage, recently shared with me their article on Enterprise Risk Management (ERM), a recognized method of evaluating and eliminating risk in an organization. They argue that its use in the law firm setting starts with the education of senior leadership and management acceptance and then moves out in the firm. A group within the firm organizes the effort to list their known risks and keeps track of them and how they deal with them. They suggest a formal approach to accomplish this and to evaluate the risks, manage, and measure them.
In many modern larger law firms this is done through the General Counsel function. If you are not to that point in your firm, you may want to consider forming a small group to do this on a formal basis. I submit it is worth your time and will then allow you to use basic situational awareness to avoid problems. Paying attention to developing problems will save you later grief, as well as money.
See Ames & Gough Winter 2014 Information Alert,
citing Fraser and Simpkins Enterprise Risk Management: Today’s Leading Research and Best Practices for Tomorrow’s Executives
Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2010