The role of the COLP

The role of the COLP

The SRA Handbook and Code have been in force since 6 October 2011 and COLPs and COFAs took up their roles formally from 1 January 2013.  Incredible to think it has been more than 6 months.
The role of the COLP and COFA doesn’t need to be complicated.  We will be focussing on the COLP role in this article and will break it down in detail.  
In summary the COLP is responsible to ensure that systems and controls are in place to enable the firm, as well as its managers and employees and anyone who owns any interest in the firm to comply with their obligations.  These obligations include:
any terms and conditions under which the firm is authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (“SRA”) to provide legal services.
the prevailing SRA Handbook, apart from the SRA Accounts Rules 2011 (“the Accounts Rules”).
any other relevant legislation, regulations and rules that apply to the firm, its managers, interest holders or employees.
The COLP must take all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of their practice’s authorisation.  They must take all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with any statutory obligations for example, the duties imposed by the Legal Services Act 2007, the Solicitors Act 1974 and the Administration of Justice Act 1985.
The COLP must take all reasonable steps to record all failures to comply. Also to report any such failures to comply to the SRA as soon as reasonably practicable, although in the case of non-material breaches, the practice will still be deemed compliant if they are reported as part of the Information Report required under Rule 8.7 of the Authorisation Rules.
To understand the role of the COLP you can look at it as a job description and these are some of the elements that would be included:
Devise and implement an internal Compliance failure reporting process, to include anonymous reporting of compliance failures.
Maintain a central register of all compliance failures in a form that allows the COLP and the firm to:
o monitor overall compliance with obligations.  
o assess the effectiveness of the firm’s systems.  
Identify at an early stage compliance failures that are material either in their own right or because they form a pattern, taking into account:
o the detriment, or risk of detriment, to clients. 
o the extent of any risk of loss of confidence in the firm or in the provision of legal services.  
o the scale of the issue.
o the overall impact on the firm, its clients and third parties
o any other relevant factors
Ensure the firm’s Compliance failure register is made available to the SRA on request.
Review the Compliance failure register to establish whether any action is required:
o on existing compliance failures.
o to prevent or minimise the risk of further compliance failures.
Report all compliance failures that are material (either individually or as part of a pattern) as soon as reasonably practicable.
Report non-material compliance failures to the SRA on an annual basis or such other period as specified by the SRA in the prescribed form and by the date prescribed by the SRA.
Prepare and maintain a Compliance Plan.
Maintain a calendar or task list of routine, recurring compliance activities with suitable reminders to ensure key compliance dates are met.
Establish proper policies and processes in all areas of compliance. 
Keep abreast of any regulatory or other compliance changes that may affect the firm and, as necessary:
Amend existing compliance policies and processes.
Devise and implement new compliance policies and processes.
Ensure employees are trained on:
o any relevant compliance arrangements and policies.
o their duty to internally report compliance failures to the COLP.
Liaise, as required, with the other partners/COFA to ensure appropriate sharing of information and consistency of approach.
Provide a compliance report to include:
o the status of the firm’s compliance arrangements.
o a summary of internal and external compliance failures reported over the period.
o any recommended compliance activities (eg to amend a particular policy in response to a regulatory change).
COLPs should consider how they are going to implement the changes across the firm and make everyone aware of the requirements and also the changes and updates as they occur.  
New systems and processes will only add value if everyone within the firm is aware of them.  New processes are usually incorporated into the Office Manual and this can be helpful for new-starters and temporary employees. However, written processes will only add value if everyone follows them. It is important to ensure new employees are made aware of the processes and follow them.  This information should be part of the Induction procedures.  If changes are made to current policies/procedures you should provide training.
COLPs should also consider involving employees in designing any new systems or processes to ensure that they are practical and functional.
The latest version of any electronic documents must be clearly noted and old versions deleted.

Compliance is an ever changing environment and there is a lot of work involved to get everyone trained on new procedures and to ensure all documents, processes and procedures are compliant but the work doesn’t stop there — compliance is an ongoing project that requires maintenance and time to ensure the COLPs stay on top of the requirements.

Legal Eye

Legal Eye works with law firms to ensure compliance and optimise performance. Their extensive and thorough knowledge of the law and regulations will ensure your law firm is compliant and your processes sound. Files are audited to ensure you are not only complying with the service level agreements you have in place, but very importantly, also the code of conduct.

They provide a documented audit trail which is firstly, a requirement of the code of conduct and secondly, essential for PI Insurance purposes and very often for CQS, Lexcel and other quality accreditations. This provides documented evidence of a proactive approach towards risk management. The advice they offer is clear and practical, and they pride themselves on exceptional customer service and unbeatable work quality.

Services include:

  • Specialist expertise across the full range of regulatory, risk and compliance issues to inform your internal decision making.
  • Additional qualified resource where you simply do not have the time to review your regulatory position or to carry out essential ongoing tasks such as file reviews.
  • An online risk hub –  an online resource centre for law firms. The hub provides a comprehensive bank of resources to help COLPs, COFAs, partners, directors and managers to manage risk. It includes precedent policy and procedure documents and templates, access to online training on a range of risk and compliance topics, and a range of useful materials such as ‘how to’ guides, short videos and articles.
  • Drafting and review of key policies and procedures including the supply of ‘document packs’ to save you time researching and writing documentation.
  • Expert advice on how to comply with up-to-date regulation including the very latest requirements complete with a written set of recommendations.
  • Specialist outsourced complaints  handling service provided by former SRA and LeO officers.
  • Gap analysis of your firm’s policies, processes and procedures as they relate to the Solicitors Accounts Rules (SAR) including the production of a written report summarising the strengths and weaknesses of the current arrangements and detailing recommended next steps and actions to put your firm in an even stronger position.
  • Training on SAR and on anti money laundering (AML) as well as other finance-related training which can be delivered virtually for your firm, face-to-face (subject to government guidance) or online via Legal Eye’s Training Academy.
  • A Standard Procedures Manual to provide a practical and comprehensive roadmap for firms to follow when looking to double check whether the current operating procedures are fit for purpose, setting up a new firm – or arm of a firm – or starting a new finance function from scratch.
  • Experienced advice and support for one-off projects such as achieving quality accreditations or switching regulators.
  • Proven high quality training for fee earners and staff held at your office/s covering essential risk topics such as  Anti Money Laundering, data  protection, cybercrime, conflict of  interest and more.
  • Online training from The Legal Eye Academy – core modules available to all staff at their convenience. Includes built-in auto reminder functionality so that you no longer have to chase staff indi-vidually to complete important training. Your package includes free updates to ensure knowledge is always up to date.
  • Added value updates by email to all your key people covering all the latest updates on risk and compliance.

The Legal Eye team includes former solicitors, partners and directors in law firms; former case handlers at regulators such as the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Legal Ombudsman and experienced risk and compliance professionals.

Contact: Paul Saunder

Tel: 0203 0512 049

Email:  [email protected]

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