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Practice Guidelines

This page sets out Caveat’s best practices, developed over time. Its purpose is to ensure consistency across the organisation, and compliance with the guidelines will enable panel members to receive optimal benefit from working with Caveat. Much of what is contained in these guidelines should go without saying, but for clarity, consistency and the highest levels of quality and service, we mention them here.

At Caveat, we pride ourselves on good quality service and fast turnaround times. The work produced by our team members is comprehensive and polished, and turned around faster than expected. Those who have mastered working with Caveat have the following attributes in common:

  • They are easily contactable;
  • They are responsive – they reply to mails and messages quickly;
  • They are consistent;
  • They are professional – they do what they say they will do, at the standard expected of them, and on time;
  • They communicate well – their communications are timely, courteous, clear and polished, and use correct language; and 
  • They use Caveat branding on all communications.

1. New Instructions

1.1.   When we receive a new instruction, we assess the client’s needs (by conversation or by email), and get a sense for the skills and experience required and the time frames for the work. This assessment resembles something like triage, rather than the taking of full instructions. With this initial assessment, we decide which panel members would likely be best suited for the job and contact them to ask whether they are available for the work. In doing so, we give them a brief idea of what the work involves, but don’t convey comprehensive instructions from the client (which is done later in the process).

1.2.   With their approval, the appropriate panel member/s are put forward to the client and, when the client asks to proceed, our standard terms are dispatched for electronic signature.

1.3.   The panel member/s appointed are put in contact with the client and should obtain clear instructions of the ambit of the brief, the client’s requirements and all facts pertinent to the work; as well as a good understanding of the client’s time frames.

1.4.   Where it is unlikely that work will be completed within the client’s time frames, expectations should be adjusted by clear communication.

1.5.   When work is underway and it becomes clear that deadlines will not be met, panel members should either negotiate an extension with the client in advance of the deadline or contact Caveat to request assistance (for example, additional panel members being assigned to the task or administrative assistance).

1.6.   Panel members may not be assisted in Caveat work by colleagues who are not themselves panel members. Where skills are required from practitioners outside of the panel, panel members should contact Caveat to arrange a referral or other solution.

1.7.  For project work, the project team will apply the following practices:

1.7.1 Roles (including project manager and reporting lines) and time frames for each deliverable will be clearly defined at the outset;

1.7.2 Individual team members will take full responsibility for performing their roles within the set time frames (and will manage their own administration, time and other commitments in order to do so);

1.7.3 Short, but regular (weekly or bi-weekly as appropriate) team calls will be scheduled to keep the team up to date on progress, ensure alignment and allow for input or assistance as required;

1.7.4 Regular (weekly or bi-weekly as appropriate) client progress reports will be scheduled to keep the client up to date on progress, record any delays on the client’s part and pre-emptively warn of any delays on the team’s part; and

1.7.5 Team members will complete a Project Team Feedback Questionnaire once the project is closed out.

2. Clients

2.1.   Almost all Caveat clients are companies and the contact people liaising with our panel members are fairly sophisticated and used to working with lawyers. On the odd occasion that the client is a private individual, extra care should be taken to explain the relevant legal process that applies, the expected time frames and the expected costs. Should circumstances arise where these factors change, further care should be taken to communicate the changes and their possible implications to the client.

2.2.   Where Caveat clients are private individuals, the sensitivity to cost and changes to expected costs are more closely felt, and this should be at the forefront of the relevant panel member’s mind when dealing with them.

3. Quoting

3.1.   Where the client requests a quote, we provide cost estimates for comprehensive first drafts, with hourly rates to apply to revisions.

3.2.   When so requested, the relevant panel member should provide Caveat with his/her estimate, showing the number of hours expected to produce comprehensive first drafts.

 3.3. Other than in exceptional circumstances, all scoping calls and email exchanges for the purposes of formulating quotes/estimates/tenders/proposals will be done on a no-charge basis.

3.4. Quotes are issued to the client by Caveat or by the panel member and copying accounts@caveatlegal.com.

3.5.   Where a quote has been issued in respect of work, it is the panel member’s responsibility to ensure that the amount invoiced is in line with the quote (or an explanation is included where it is not).

3.6.   Where a quote is likely to be exceeded, it is the panel member’s responsibility to bring this to the client’s attention as soon as the fact becomes apparent. This is to manage expectations and avoid surprises at invoicing time.

4. Documents Produced

4.1.    Panel members requiring assistance with formatting, typing, proofreading or any other document-related tasks are to request them from Caveat. 

4.2.    Documents produced should adhere to the following style:

 4.2.1. No branding or logo of any kind on drafted documents;

 4.2.2. Panel members who wish to issue a letter, memo  or opinion on the Caveat letterhead may request a template from Caveat;

 4.2.3. Where the document needs to be addressed from the author, it should state the name of the author, and the words “Caveat Panel Member”, eg: Amanda Hofmeyr, Caveat Panel Member;

 4.2.4. Where amendments are made to a document, the track changes notes should reflect the panel member’s full name or initials;

 4.2.5. Print:
  4.2.5.1. Font – Arial
  4.2.5.2. Size – 10 or 12
  4.2.5.3. Spacing 1.15
  4.2.5.4. Justified
  4.2.5.5. Numbering as per this document
  4.2.5.6. Automatic numbering and cross-referencing

5. Quality Control

5.1.   Panel members are required to ensure that they work only within their field of specialisation and on work appropriate for their level of experience.

5.2.   Where the input of a senior or specialised panel member is required, panel members may request Caveat to arrange such input. 

5.3.   Caveat has a ‘four eyes’ policy for all documents drafted for clients. This means that all work should be checked or proof-read by a fellow panel member before release to the client.

5.4.   Senior panel members (those with 12+ years PQE) may dispense with this requirement where appropriate, although it is  our preference that they do not. 

6. Consultations

6.1.   Consultations are held by telephone or video call using whatever technology the parties are comfortable with.

6.2.   In-person consultations, when required, are held at clients’ offices. Where this isn’t possible, panel members may request Caveat to arrange a meeting room, or where appropriate, a consultation can be arranged at a casual venue, eg: a coffee shop. 

6.3.   Consultations may not be held at a panel member’s home or office.

7. Emails

7.1.   Each panel member will receive details of his/her own Caveat email account, which should be added to all devices which he/she uses to send and receive emails, eg: PC, tablet, phone.

7.2.   For support with the setup and administration of their email accounts, panel members may contact OpenNet Support by email at support@opennet.co.za.

7.3.   All emails sent in respect of Caveat work should be sent from the panel member’s Caveat email account with the prescribed email auto-signature.

7.4.   All emails should have text in black and using Calibri or Arial font.

7.5.   Emails should be proofread, and should not contain slang or emojis.

8. Time Recording and Invoicing

Note: Due to the increasing workload undertaken by panel members and the number of invoices processed each month, these requirements are mandatory. Time recordals and invoices not complying with these guidelines will not be processed.

8.1.   We use Xero Projects for time capturing because it is simple to use on a PC or mobile phone and it allows us to generate invoices automatically through our accounting software with minimal administrative intervention. On admission to the panel, each panel member will receive an invitation to Xero Projects.

8.2.   A new project will be created for each new matter, and a panel member allocated to that matter (by the allocation of a ‘task’ – reflecting the panel member’s hourly rate – to the project). Where a client contacts a panel member directly with a new instruction, the panel member can request the creation of a new project from Caveat via email to accounts@caveatlegal.com, stating the client name, the matter name and the client contact for the matter. Once created, the panel member can proceed to capture time to that matter.

8.3.   Panel members working on secondment can use Xero Projects to record their time as usual, but this will be kept for internal monitoring purposes only as the client will be invoiced for an agreed monthly secondment fee.

8.4.   Caveat issues invoices to clients at the beginning of each month for work done the previous month. All time capturing on Xero Projects should be up to date at the end of the last day of each month, and will be billed on the first working day of the following month unless the panel member requests that time on a specific matter be held over for invoicing the next month.

8.5.   Caveat will copy the relevant panel member in each invoice mailed to a client. This invoice should be used by the panel member as the base on which to calculate the fees due to him/her for the work to which it relates (eg: if the invoice to the client was for R10,000 (excl VAT), the invoice from the panel member to Caveat should be R10,000/1.25=R8,000). These invoices must be emailed to accounts@caveatlegal.com by the 5th working day of each month.

8.6.   Panel members needn’t include each time attendance in his/her invoice to Caveat – a one-liner “Attendances – Month/Year” and the total fee will suffice. 

8.7.   Invoices should be dated the last day of the month within which the work was done and made out to Caveat Legal (with registered address 7B Wodin Rd, Newlands, 7700 and VAT number 4440262824) with the following referencing convention: Client Name/Matter/Panel Member Initials/Caveat Invoice Number (all details reflected on the respective client invoice), and include your name, address, contact details and VAT number. It is our preference that panel members are registered for VAT.

8.8.   In the limited circumstances that a panel member is not using Xero Projects for time capturing, he/she should submit invoices by the last day of the month to accounts@caveatlegal.com.

8.9.   Time should be recorded by the hour (broken into 10 units of 6 minutes each, rounded up). For example: 6 hours and 15 minutes of work should be recorded as 6.3 hours; and 1 hour and 12 minutes should be recorded as 1.2 hours. 

8.10.   No invoice should reflect time increments with more than one decimal point, eg: 1.35 hours.

8.11.   Our invoicing culture is based on the principle that each attendance should directly reflect value received by our clients. As such, we don’t charge for anything that may be perceived as ‘petty’, for example emails and telephone calls to and from Caveat, travel less than 30 kms, very brief telephone calls and emails etc.

8.12.   Where fees are written down/discounted for any reason, this should be reflected on the invoice.

8.13.    Where a client has received a quote for work, the invoice should show the time worked (whether less than or more than the quote). If less than the quote, only the time worked should be invoiced for. If more than the quote, the fees should either be written down to the quoted amount or the invoice should contain an explanation of the reason for the quote having been overrun. Please note: this will only be allowed when the client has received prior notice that the quote would be overrun. 

8.14.   Caveat can issue quotes and invoices in various currencies. Should the client location or matter type warrant the use of a currency different to ZAR, panel members should communicate this clearly both to the client and to accounts@caveatlegal.com. In the case where fees are recovered in foreign currency, panel members may elect to have such fees paid to them in such foreign currency or in ZAR. Payment in ZAR will not attract transaction costs. Payment in other currencies will be at panel members own cost.

9. Relationship Management

9.1.   At Caveat we pride ourselves on careful and personal relationship management. As such, we take great care in welcoming feedback and handling difficult situations in a way that is optimal for all role players. 

9.2.   Feedback from panel members and clients is welcomed. It doesn’t happen often, but when we receive negative feedback, as difficult as it may be to hear, we are presented with our greatest opportunities to improve and innovate.

9.3.   Where panel members battle with difficult situations involving clients, we welcome the opportunity to assist in whatever way is appropriate in the circumstances, and we encourage panel members to communicate with us on these issues.

10. Fees

10.1.   Panel members are free to set their base fees at any level that they wish. Factors to take into account when setting base fees include:

10.1.1.    The level of reward that you believe to be commensurate with the value added by your work;

10.1.2.    The rates charged by your peers at the large firms;

10.1.3.    The portion of those rates that they (your large firm peers) actually take home (on our research they take home on average about 25% of their charge out rates, with the rest going to overheads etc);

10.1.4.    The rates of your peers on the Caveat panel;

10.1.5.    The fact that the Caveat Service Fee is added to your base fee;

10.1.6.    The absence of overheads for which the client must pay; 

10.1.7.    Your level of experience and your field of specialisation; and

10.1.8.    The volume of work that you’d like to receive from Caveat.

10.2.   We find that there is natural competition within the panel, and that those who charge fees deemed by their clients as reasonable for their value contribution do the best within the Caveat model.

10.3.   Should panel members need information about the base fees charged by panel members at similar levels of experience to their own, they may request it from Caveat.

10.4.    Should panel members wish to do general commercial work as well as specialised (eg banking & finance) work, they may charge different base rates for such categories.

11. Resources

Professional Indemnity Insurance

11.1.    Panel members are covered for work done for Caveat clients by the Caveat professional indemnity insurance policy. The limit of cover provided in terms of the policy is currently R50,000,000.00, with an excess of R40,000 per claim. The Caveat Terms signed by clients limits liability to the amount recovered in terms of the policy.

11.2.    Caveat recovers from each panel member an annual contribution to the PI policy premium, which contribution is deducted from fees recovered from clients. The annual contribution amount is determined taking into account the panel members’ fees billed during the previous financial year. For new panel members, the annual contribution amount is currently R3,500.00. For panel members whose base fees in the previous financial year are over R500,000.00, the annual contribution is currently R7,000.00.

11.3.    The PI policy runs from 1 December to 30 November each year.

11.4.    Panel members have a duty to disclose to Caveat (for disclosure to its insurers) any claims, incidents or circumstances which may give rise to a claim for professional negligence against him/her or Caveat.

Lexis Nexis

11.5.    Caveat holds a Time Select (pay-as-you-go) subscription with Lexis Nexis for its Practical Guidance and Commercial Law products. The login details for these products are as follows:

Username: info@caveatlegal.com
Password: 704490

12. Caveat Team Meetings and Social Events

12.1.     Where circumstances allow, Caveat holds 2-3 events (of 2-3 hours each) per year. 

12.2.     Because Caveat is run remotely, the events are an important part of the business.

12.3.    We try to schedule the events at times when most panel members will be available, and we ensure that they do not take more time than is absolutely necessary.

12.4.    As such, panel members are required to diarise the event dates early and to prioritise them over other work obligations.

13. Leave

13.1.     Panel members should give Caveat reasonable notice of planned time away from the office and, where there are matters expected to be active during the leave period, work with Caveat to make arrangements for another panel member to attend to the work in their absence.

13.2.     Panel members are responsible for setting up email autoresponders during periods of absence. Should they require emails sent to them to be automatically forwarded to Caveat while they are away, they should request this from Caveat.

14. Marketing

14.1.      Our approach to marketing

14.1.1.    We recognise the importance of a smart and focused marketing strategy that will continue to build the brand, grow our client base and strengthen the community that we serve.  

14.1.2.    We have a rolling PR plan to feature topical stories about Caveat and our services with key industry and media contacts.

14.1.3.    We rely on content marketing to provide a value exchange to our audiences, commissioning articles for our website that are relevant both to our audiences and to our business that we can share within our networks (including Daily Maverick, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, our quarterly newsletter and the occasional News Flash).

14.1.4.    We engage in relevant online conversations and share relevant content in order to:

 14.1.4.1.      raise awareness of the brand and position the business correctly (which includes credibility through thought leadership); and

 14.1.4.2.     attract new clients and panel members.

14.2.     What to expect from Caveat in social media:

 14.2.1.    Valuable content – no fluff.

 14.2.2.    Curated content that is interesting for our target audiences.

14.2.3.    No over-communication.

 14.2.4.    Consistency.

 14.2.5.    A communication style that is accessible, practical and unintimidating.

 14.2.6.    A ‘tone of voice’ in social media that is friendly, professional, dynamic, respectful, quietly confident, conversational and never aggressive.

 14.2.7.    Careful and considered responses to comments, after internal deliberation.

14.3.     The importance of the Panel

 14.3.1.    We profile the panel on our website and feature new members when they join and when they have articles and/or points of view to share.

 14.3.2.    Panel members are required to declare their panel membership on their LinkedIn profiles to strengthen both their and the panel’s stature.

 14.3.3.    We encourage panel members to contribute and be profiled within our content marketing activities. We approach panel members to commission articles and other content, involve them in PR and video where possible and request a point of view or quote on a topic from time to time.

 14.3.4.    We encourage panel members to follow Caveat on social media platforms and to share content published by us to help increase our profile and reach. We also encourage panel members to join our social media pages and groups and take part in group discussions where relevant and of interest.

14.4.      Optimising your own brand

 14.4.1.    Panel members can enhance their LinkedIn profiles to build their personal brands by:

 14.4.1.1.      Adding a professional photograph to their profiles. We will gladly provide  copies of panel members’ Caveat professional profile pictures for this purpose on request.

 14.4.1.2.     Writing a short executive summary about him/herself in the ‘About’ section to summarise their current and past experience.

 14.4.1.3.    Including accreditations, clients and testimonials.

 14.4.1.4.     Adding their roles as p anel members to profile their association with Caveat.

  14.4.1.5.    Endorsing and recommending each other within the panel.

 14.4.2.    Remember that LinkedIn is a professional platform (as opposed to Facebook), and information and profile pictures posted on LinkedIn should be of a professional nature.

 14.4.3.    We encourage panel members to join our company pages and groups, and to share updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and subscribe to YouTube (for example fresh articles published on the Caveat website which are of interest to you).

15. Technology

15.1.     Caveat introduces software and security measures incrementally to streamline its operations and enhance its service to its clients. Panel members should be open to these adjustments and use them to the extent required by Caveat.

Devices

16.1.    Caveat has a Bring Your Own Device Policy, allowing panel members to use their own laptops, desktops, tablets and mobile devices for work.

16.2.    This is subject to a strict Device Security Policy to ensure that panel members’ devices are secured against the most basic software vulnerabilities and unauthorised access. The device security obligations have evolved over time in line with global best practice, and is available here.

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