Chapter 6: Progress Achieved in Reaching Key Objective 3
Key Objective 3
To ensure that legal services are delivered in a manner which meet the principles of Quality Customer Service and which take into account the public service change programme
The commitment to provide professional legal services of the highest quality to the Office’s clients is the core principle that has informed this Strategy Statement. The Office’s Client Service Guide 2002-2004 sets out in detail the framework for the implementation of the principles of quality customer service and for maintaining and making further improvements over the lifetime of the Guide. The Office recognises that the cornerstone of quality customer service is based on consultation with our clients and maintaining a comprehensive system of feedback for highlighting new strategic issues, for remedying issues of concern and for facilitating two-way communication.
The strategies to achieve this objective are:
- Delivery of objectives set out in the Client Service Guide 2002-2004
- Reporting on the extent to which the implementation of the objectives set out in the Client Service Guide 2002-2004 is achieved,
- Development of appropriate client service standards in relation to
- internal, and
- external clients.
During 2004 the Merrion Street Office and CSSO made significant progress in the area of quality customer service. A review of Groups on the Advisory side in the Merrion Street Office, initiated in October 2003, was progressed further during the year to include the distribution and organisation of work having regard to the Office’s priority for specialisation and how Groups undertake their business with a view to improving the delivery of quality legal services to clients. Changes highlighted in the course of this review were implemented on an ongoing basis from January 2004.
Advisory Counsel groups and Parliamentary Counsel groups developed greater ties with client Departments whose work falls within their particular area of specialism. These ties were further developed during the year through the use of information exchange meetings and review meetings with these Departments in accordance with our business plans.
During 2004 the IT Units in both Offices continued to operate successful internal Office Helpdesks to facilitate a co-ordinated approach to handling issues. Helpdesks in the Services Unit and Registry in the Merrion Street Office continued to operate to ensure that problems and issues were dealt with expeditiously, thus providing an improved quality of service delivery to its clients within the Office. In July, 2004 new Helpdesks were set up in both Offices in the context of the roll-out of the new Financial Management System and greatly enhanced the management of issues that arose for end-users of the system.
The Merrion Street Office continues to recognise the need for the introduction of flexible working arrangements specifically geared towards the demands of clients. During 2004 the Office continued to operate the following initiatives:
- Typists were available at all times as required and, on a voluntary rota basis, a typist is always contactable outside normal working hours.
- Certain key staff were available via mobile phone outside normal working hours.
- The Office introduced an informal on-call system to deal with specific work demands that arose outside normal working hours.
- Depending on the workload and its urgency, working late, working at weekends, arriving early and taking much less than the time allowed for lunch were also features of flexible attendance patterns in operation within the Office.
Client and Customer Charters
During the year both the Merrion Street Office and the Chief State Solicitor’s Office conducted extensive surveys of clients and customers and convened consultations with a view to preparing their first Client and Customer Charters in December, 2004. High levels of satisfaction were expressed in respect of the services provided by both Offices. The Charters published in March 2005 took account of the less satisfactory points arising from the surveys.
External consultation with clients on work issues and regular reviews on work areas were progressed during the year. PMDS surveys of staff in both Offices resulted in Action Plans agreed by the Partnership Committee in each Office having been put in place which addressed issues raised. Again the level of satisfaction expressed by staff in both Offices was high. The level of consultation with clients (external and internal) during the year was unprecedented and will be followed up by further surveys in early 2006.
The CSSO acts as Ireland’s agent before the European Court of Justice. In this context, the Office organised in 2004 a successful conference of ‘Agents’ of each of the 25 Member States in Dublin Castle. Personnel from the Office of the Attorney General also participated. The Conference theme was ‘Enlargement and the Role of the ECJ Agent’, and its particular objective was facilitating the introduction of the agents of the new Member States. It was particularly appropriate that the Conference took place in Dublin following the Irish Presidency. The event was particularly useful in developing Ireland’s networking with European Agents and gaining further know-how on effective litigation before this court.
In September 2004, the Merrion Street Office hosted a lecture on the European Court of Justice. CSSO and Departmental personnel were also invited to attend. An evening legal seminar on aspects of Human Rights Law was hosted by the Attorney General in December 2004 to which Departments and others were invited. The Office has been running, in conjunction with the CSSO, a highly successfully ECHR education programme since early 2003. The education programme continued during 2004 with the ECHR Working Group organising 7 lectures. All Merrion Street Office and CSSO staff are invited to attend along with Departmental lawyers.