COLP Compliance - Responsibility and Recording
If you have been nominated to be the Compliance Officer (COLP) for your law firm you will be fully aware of the responsibility this places on you to ensure your firm is and remains compliant, at all times, with the Solicitors Code of Conduct.
On a day to day basis you will fulfil the primary duties of the COLP through your general supervisory duties. However, the busier you become it is easy to allow these to fall down, or more worryingly to overlook the need to record the actions you have carried out and performed to demonstrate compliance.
A brief summary of your requirements as a COLP: -
- Ensure the firm, its managers and employees comply with all terms and conditions of its authorisation (except any obligations imposed under the SRA Accounts Rules).
- Ensure the authorised body complies with relevant statutory obligations.
- Record any failure to comply with authorisation or statutory obligations and make such records available to the SRA.
- Report any material failure (either taken on its own or as part of a pattern of failures) to the SRA as soon as reasonably practical. Licensed bodies (ABS firms) must, in accordance with the Legal Services Act 2007, also report non-material breaches.
In our compliance consultancy work with law firms across the market, we have identified that there is a good level of knowledge of the responsibilities of the COLP and the regulations and statute that are required by the firm to comply with to ensure there is compliance.
However, it is often the case that despite an ability to demonstrate an understanding of what is required, there is simply insufficient proof that the firm is indeed complying and the COLP is recording their activity in a way which protects both them and the firm.
How do you achieve this?
The answer is not as simple as it may first seem, but with the right organisation and support, putting in place a framework to ensure the firm is able to demonstrate compliance is not an onerous task. Some aspects for the COLP to consider are: –
Implement – Ensure that you have implemented policies and procedures in your firm that ensure you and your staff meet the requirements of the regulations. It is essential that your policies and procedures are proportionate and capable of full implementation. Having a set of documents that are too onerous to ever be put into practise can prove to be counter-productive. Do not go overboard!
Record – Ensure you have a consistent method of recording any breaches, potential breaches and your investigations. Whether you are operating a manual system or an online solution, you must record what you have done and the actions you have taken. The recording of your activity is an essential element to an effective regulatory management system.
Access – As COLP you must be accessible to your staff. How do they interact with you and report a breach or a potential breach to you. Make sure you have a simple and efficient method to notify you by implementing an easy to use notification system for all staff to follow.
Deputise – It is very likely that being COLP is just part of your role and you will fulfil various other functions in the firm. If this is the case, find suitable deputies to assist you and delegate as appropriate. This does not take away your responsibility as COLP but nowhere in the rules does it say you must do it all. Find support you can trust and delegate tasks to them.
Audit – Review your policies and procedures through auditing. The easy step is putting policies in place, the more difficult step is ensuring they are followed every day in all your dealings. You will only achieve this and be able to prove likewise if you conduct audits and do so with reasonable frequency.
Train – Train your staff at least annually on all of your policies and procedures and ensure they are up to date with the changing regulatory environment law firms operate in. Training must be regular and you must record that it has been provided.
Review & Update – Review your policies. The market is full of advice and guidance and information when regulations change. How to apply changes is up to you but you are not alone to interpret and update your policies ad procedures. Whether you seek external support, or you have the time to investigate and update your policies it has to be done and regularly. Policies and procedures that fall out of date are as useless as not having them in the first place so make sure what you are doing is relevant and your staff are kept informed.
Outsource – If you need help, outsource. There are plenty of regulatory providers in the market ready to assist and alleviate some of the burden of making sure you run a regulatory environment. The Strategic Partner offer such a service that is cost effective and ensures you and your firm are driven to operate within an appropriate regulatory framework.
At the Strategic Partner we work with firms to implement and maintain a proportionate and successful regulatory environments that are demonstrably working within your firm. If you are a COLP and you are concerned that what you are doing could be improved we offer you a cost effective solution that will ease concerns you may have and enable you to focus on running your firm.
For more information on our regulatory and compliance solution click on the link below:
The Strategic Partner Regulation and Compliance service
If you would like to discuss further or would like to sign up to the service you can email us firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call us 0203 911 9710.