INSIGHTS: “Learn – change – sleep – repeat”… welcome to the new world

May 4, 2016

Principal Julie Somerville writes: This week my 10 year old son asked me “mum, how do I know if a hashtag has already been used, or whether I am using the right one” (his school must have a good cyber education program!). Times are changing and there is no doubt that it is vitally important to keep up with those changes.

Life as a professional or an organisation is fast paced. Gone are the days of learning your trade and simply setting about to practice in that trade, the same way, for life.  Today you are expected to continually learn new skills, adapt your way of business to integrate those new skills, and then just when you think you have it under control – something new comes along and you have to start all over again.

And all of this change brings new risk – quite simply you have to keep up with the changes or you may be exposed to disciplinary complaints, regulatory investigations or prosecutions, or civil litigation. However, is it going too far?

In the past few months I have seen increasing examples of professionals being criticized for the manner in which they have, or have not, utilized new technology or research. For example:

  • Using SMS to communicate with clients but not saving the SMS or failing to have provide further written advice or confirmation of the communications;
  • Being criticised for the selections made on drop down online menus rather than populating free text fields;
  • Being aware of a possible (albeit remote) symptom of an infectious disease and not changing business practices to prevent the hypothetical spread of that disease;
  • Failing to regularly monitor and update  social media pages; and
  • Failing to enquire as to whether data could be obtained from a wearable fitness device.

Whether these criticisms would have resulted in a disciplinary complaint or civil proceedings will not be known as they did not go down that path. One would hope that they would not. However it is clear that just as fast as technology changes, so does the standard of care practice expected of a professional or a business.

For some professionals, it is also important that their professional indemnity or business pack insurance is regularly reviewed to reflect additional risks of business. The perfect example being the increase in cyber ransom attacks and data breaches over the past few years. Many professionals would be well served by checking the extent of coverage provided by their policies in relation to cyber and data breaches.

What is critical though is recognizing the importance of keeping abreast of changes in your industry, having good systems in place to monitor and review the way you practice and ensuring that your insurance matches any change to your business. Then, when you have done all that – sleep – and start again!

As a professional risk lawyer I am always interested in learning about new risks confronting professionals and businesses and share posts on the topic on a regular basis. If you wish to keep up to date with developments in this area, follow me, or drop me a line.