CMS SURVEY MANAGER FEEDBACK SURVEY – OUR TAKE We asked the legal practitioner directors of each of the 35 incorporated legal practices which participated in the complaints management systems survey in May-June 2009 to give us their feedback shortly after we posted the survey results and 22 of them got back to us by 20 July 2009. We have published a separate report setting out their feedback in quantitative terms (under the heading CMS-survey-manager-feedback-200709). This report summarises and discusses their feedback including the comments they made in the free text boxes that accompanied some of the survey questions. It should be read in conjunction with the quantitative report. The feedback is encouraging. We note that: 14 or two-thirds of the 22 legal practitioner directors who gave us their feedback said the complaints management systems survey was either helpful or very helpful to them personally in assessing their firm’s complaints management systems. Seven of them said it was neither helpful nor unhelpful and only 1 of them said it was unhelpful; 16 or three–quarters of the 22 legal practitioner directors said that participating in the survey was a useful exercise for their firm and 14 or two-thirds of them believe that they will change their firm’s complaint management systems as a result of completing the survey and considering the Commission’s audit report; 11 of the 14 legal practitioner directors who said that participating in the survey was a useful exercise for their firm said that it was useful because it ensured that their staff had greater awareness of complaint management; 7 of them because it improved the visibility of and access to their firm’s complaints management policies and procedures; and 6 because it would help them use complaints as a management tool for identifying systemic issues within their firm; and 20 or all but 1 of the 22 legal practitioner directors said that the audit/survey had potential as a mechanism for helping law firms implement and maintain effective complaints management policies and procedures. We thanked the legal practitioner directors who responded to our feedback survey for taking the time to give us their feedback and we asked them ‘is there anything else you would like to say?’ Two of them responded as follows and a third sent us an unsolicited comment by email (the last of the three comments below): ‘I found the results more useful than actually completing the survey!’ ‘the survey was conducted professionally and the results collated are of assistance’ ‘I just wanted to thank you and your team for your proactive approach in assisting firms step up to the mark on complaints management. Clearly we have a lot of work to 2 do, and your work has provided me with some great ideas on preparing the materials we need to ensure everyone understands our complaints management procedures.’ We also asked them whether ‘expecting firms to undertake a survey (such as the complaint management survey) annually as a mandatory regulatory requirement be too great a regulatory burden?’ We gave them the opportunity to expand on their ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer by commenting further in a free text box. The results: 14 or two-thirds of them answered ‘yes’ and 7 or one-third of them answered ‘no’. 4 of them commented further, as follows: o ‘I just feel that there is a fair amount of paperwork as there is’ o ‘it's difficult to get lawyers to fill in forms! Perhaps if it were voluntary and [there was] a compulsory one every two years?’ o ‘the difficulty we had was trying to get the staff to answer the survey. We asked them at least three times to do so. Because we were not aware of who responded at the time, we found only about 30% of our staff responded. If we had some feedback we might have been able to encourage more to participate.’ o ‘the loss of productivity is immense. A trust account audit does not impact on as many members of a firm as this did [and] the younger members of staff and the administrative staff were frightened that they would give a "wrong answer" and get us, the directors, in trouble’. We are struck by the fact that 14 or two-thirds of the 22 legal practitioners who gave us their feedback said it would be imposing too great a regulatory burden to require law firms to complete a web-based survey annually – we are struck because the same majority of them agreed that completing the survey was both helpful to them personally and a useful exercise for their firm, and because all but 1 of them acknowledged its potential to help firms implement and maintain appropriate management systems. It seems to us that the acknowledged benefits that flow from the 20-30 minutes each (or most) of the firm’s people spend completing the survey compensate for the ‘loss of productivity’. Certainly we recognise the cost-benefit tension and the need to keep compliance costs to a minimum. That is why we have designed the web-based surveys specifically to assist law firms reflect upon and improve their management systems and specifically to be consistent with the Administrative Review Council’s best practice principle that compliance costs should be kept proportionate to the potential significance of the information we’re seeking to obtain. 3 We note that the cost-benefit equation takes on a whole new complexion when firms subtract the cost not from the time they expect fee earners and other staff to put towards billable work but from the time they set aside (and that the Legal Profession Act envisages they should set aside) for professional development, management and systems reviews and other non-billable activities. And we note in this regard that the majority of the law firms which completed the complainants management systems survey say that they do in fact set aside time for non-billable activities of these kinds (including as it happens annual complaints management training).