Guide To Maintaining a Compliant Law Firm
With the new SRA Standards and Regulations now in force from yesterday, 25th November 2019, there has never been a better time for a law firm to ask itself whether a compliant environment has been created.
This article provides some consideration for law firms and their compliance officers to contemplate when addressing the question and seeking to confirm they have created an environment that respects the requirement of the SRA Standard and Regulations: -
- Ensure your policies and procedures are up to date
When did you last review your policies and procedures? Being blunt, if this was not since publication of the updated Standard and Regulations, you risk them being out of date. Whilst the new regulations have not dramatically changed, the requirements for firms there are changes and these must be reflected through your current policies and procedures with your staff updated.
Ensure that you challenge your own policies. Often law firms will find their policies and procedures have been built, adapted and changed through the years and the current versions are a mish mash of many variations and redrafts. Have the policies kept pace with not just regulation but also the way in which your firm operates? Do not fall into the trap of extending your regulatory requirements beyond that that the regulator and legislation requires you to. In our experience firms can go too far with their approach to regulation and create unnecessary obligations on them and their staff.
Ensure your staff receive regular training on the policies and procedures and what their obligations are. The new requirements place more emphasis on the behavior of individuals, and it is more important now than ever before that each individual is aware of and respects their own part to play in running a compliant law firm. Also record the training you provide as evidence of the firms approach to compliance.
- Train your compliance officers
Firms will often appoint different people to the various compliance roles, depending on the size of the firm. These officers must have access to regular and updated training and information to ensure they are not just aware of what they must do to comply with regulation but also, they are aware of the activity of the SRA. With outcomes focused regulation still being at the forefront of management of a compliance policy the officers must be aware of intelligence shared by the SRA and others which will direct them on their own decision making and approach.
Maintain your registers. It sounds simple but often overlooked. If you do not have time to maintain your various registers to record the activity in the firm, get help in doing so. Your registers are your ‘go to place’ and for that matter the SRA! This is your evidence that you record and investigate issues as they arise and address the issues that are relevant to your firm. Allow this to become out of date at your peril.
Letting people know how to access the compliance officers and information that is needed when making a report on any matter is essential. You need to make this as easy as possible for your staff. They must know how to report and issue, what information is needed, and they need to feel comfortable in their ability to do so.
- Audit and Review (Supervise)
An essential element of the Standards and Regulations is evidencing your compliance. This can only be achieved by maintaining your registers and auditing the processes (file audits) and your staff (compliance interviews) and recording the outcomes. Importantly, identify the issues and address them through direct activity with an individual or provide more and direct training. Law firms, through the nature of what they do, are constantly auditing and reviewing files, from handling complaints to simple guidance to a junior colleague, a file will be reviewed and audited. This provides the chance, for little extra effort, to record this as a compliance audit and form part of the overall process of supervision.
When you undertake a review prepare a report. This should simply overview the actions you have taken and the outcomes. A simple report with the detail and held within your registers can go a long way to evidencing your compliance with your regulatory requirements.
At The Strategic Partner, (TSP) we have developed a compliance product that addresses each of the key stages of managing a compliant law firm. From implementing policies through to files audits and supervision, we work with you to implement a proportionate and sensible approach to compliance.
For more information about how TSP can work with you can: