Necessity is the mother of invention as we rebuild – Vicky Crichton

Lockdown lessons will have an invaluable impact on the SLCC’s work, says Vicky Crichton

Vicky Crichton is Director of Public Policy at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission

It’s hard to know right now, as we begin to slowly emerge from lockdown, what the impact of the last few months will have been on our future ways of working.

What will we have learned and want to build upon, and what is an uncomfortable necessity that we will want to change as soon as possible? What will truly help us to “build back better”?

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In truth, it’s likely that we will need the benefit of greater hindsight to see the long-term changes that have been set in motion by the coronavirus pandemic during this period.

Nevertheless, as businesses, sectors and individuals we have all learned so much about the art of the possible – and how creative we can be when restrictions are placed upon us.

When the SLCC started developing its new strategy, we wanted a drive to digital to be a key priority. Working in a paper-heavy sector like the law means we often have processes designed around paper forms and files.

We wanted to make a concerted effort to shift our ways of working towards a “digital first” approach – but we thought it might be a challenge to win hearts and minds to do this.

What the last few months have taught us is that necessity truly is the mother of invention. As the justice and legal sector has adapted its ways of working to maintain business in the face of the pandemic, we have seen traditions overturned and rapid innovation encouraged.

Advances in practice that seemed almost unthinkable have happened overnight. While some things will return to “normal” when that is possible, others changes will have been positive and likely to prove irreversible.

Our aim is to move to a fully digital and paperless process. The experience of coronavirus only underscores further why this is a business necessity.

That doesn’t mean compromising on accessibility, though. The handwritten complaints still arriving in our mailbag are testament to the need to ensure access for all and to prevent digital exclusion.

That understanding of the needs of all of our customers will also be a key focus for the SLCC in the coming years.

Responses to our strategy consultation also strongly welcomed our continued focus on preventing the common causes of complaints.

Sharing our insight on common issues like poor communication and unnecessary delay is a crucial part of our role in helping the sector to meet the expected standards of service, and avoid unnecessary complaints.

This is also an area that we had to adapt significantly as lockdown hit, as many of our outreach meetings and events were cancelled or moved online.

Our new strategy commits us to increasing our online offering of guidance, CPD and outreach. Working from home pushed us to consider how online presentations, video calls and podcasts could be delivered swiftly.

It has been incredibly important to us that we’ve been able to continue to speak directly to the legal profession about the common causes of complaints, and to hear their questions and responses to the insight we draw from the complaints that reach us.

In doing so, we’ve learned a huge amount about how to connect with people digitally, and what we can deliver remotely.

Our ambition is to provide useful insight and support to legal professionals when, where and how they need it. We’re already well on the way to adding new, digital options to that offer.

Our new strategy challenges us to innovate and adapt. Lockdown has been a huge challenge, but the lessons we’ve learned will have an invaluable impact on what we deliver in the coming years.

Vicky Crichton is Director of Public Policy at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission – www.scottishlegalcomplaints.org.uk

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