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There's a lot going on in the world right now affecting design professionals' daily work. Things like navigating out of a pandemic, the potential deployment of significant government funding to bolster infrastructure improvement, and the emerging prevalence of cyber breaches are opening up firms to a host of professional liability and cyber-based exposure. By implementing the following risk management best practices, you can eliminate or mitigate these threats to your business.

Document, document, document

Timely documentation of advice provided, client and sub-consultant communications, and other project resources is of paramount importance. Additionally, your contracts should clearly outline the scope of services, a timeline, and your role in the project.

No project is too small, and no email, text, or phone message is irrelevant. You should document all of it.

Vet your clients

To properly vet clients, it's important to discuss the project at hand, expected roles and responsibilities, and expectations for two-way communication. You should also do a quick web search of potential clients to assess any potential litigation on prior engagements.

Avoid clients who appear non-committal and are unable to articulate their needs and expectations clearly in writing. Ensuring the client understands your role (as well as theirs) throughout the engagement is key to eliminating potential issues down the line.

Manage client expectations

As important as it is to focus on areas of specialty and discipline, it is equally important to manage client expectations.

Resist the urge to over-commit to timeline completion. Things like delays due to COVID-19 and jurisdictional permitting timelines are out of your control and can affect completion dates.

You should also use contracts to clearly outline the scope of service. Carefully vet any project “scope creep” to ensure you are comfortable doing the additional requested work. Always requote the bid to include the added service, adjusted timelines, and overall deliverables.

Remain in consistent contact with the client

Engage in regular touchpoints to quickly address client inquiries and concerns. And when situations arise, proactively work to remedy it, and communicate with your client to eliminate the unknown. It's important to ensure your client feels they are a priority.

Consider purchasing professional liability and cyber liability coverage

Broad professional liability and cyber liability offer a cost-effective means to help protect your firm in the event of a claim. Access to claim hotline resources provides an additional level of protection.

ASCE members can take advantage of competitive rates on professional and cyber liability coverages through the ASCE Member Insurance Program. With over 25 years of experience protecting design professionals, we've developed a program you can count on. Visit us online to learn more.

These five strategies are a great start to helping protect your firm from threats. If you're interested in more in-depth resources, visit our risk management hub. Here, you'll find contract and agreement document best practices and guides, webinar and newsletter content on claims trends and developments, and more.

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