Society is becoming ever more litigious, and in this current climate any party who suffers loss or injury will have little or no hesitation in pursuing a claim if they feel aggrieved.
Consultants need to understand their client’s needs and identify realistic parameters, as sometimes the client's expectations may be unachievable.
Claims are more likely to arise as a result of the perception of failure to deliver a certain level of service. The professional’s perception of “service” as a provider may be somewhat different from their client’s perceived requirements. It is therefore important that the brief and your terms of business are discussed with the client, so both parties know what is expected.
It is good practice to make a note of calls you have made during your working day, the advice given and agreed verbal actions. By incorporating this into your daily routine you not only help reduce the level of risk you face, but it can assist with calculating your hourly rates, expenses and other associated bills. This will benefit you in two direct ways - you will be able to identify areas that take up unproductive time, and you will be in a better position to justify your bill should a client query your costings.
A transparent paper trail, from beginning to end, is another important point. Good housekeeping will enable you to defend yourself against the cut and thrust of the private sector, which in turn may help prevent a claim being made against you by a disgruntled client. Remember, not every claim made is a valid one.
TERMS OF BUSINESS
One of the most useful aides to this is the use of formal terms of business, as this can provide a framework to address the expectations of both parties by detailing the nature of the duties required and timescales of delivery. This seems obvious but it is often overlooked in the rush to obtain work and then execute it. Within these documents it is prudent if the professional can:
Members who do not clearly set out their terms of business to a client may also find themselves in breach of the RTPI's Code of Professional Conduct.