Law firms will find new rules a challenge

New rules introduced by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) require all firms of solicitors to appoint a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and a Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA) by the end of March and tell the SRA who they are.

A seminar last week organised by national audit, tax and advisory firm, Crowe Clark Whitehill looked at the requirements of these new positions, the type of person who is suitable for each and gave practical guidance as to how to undertake the role.

The positions are an integral part of a firm’s governance, with a duty to ensure compliance with both the SRA Handbook and all other legislation affecting the running of firms.  As such, the individual will need appropriate seniority, influence and support.
Johnathan Dudley, Midlands Managing Partner and Head of the Midlands Professional Practices group said: “There was an excellent attendance, with a lot of concern as to the best way forward.
“The two new roles cannot be under estimated, they are responsible and important. Both officers need to demonstrate their suitability to the SRA who must approve the appointment.
“Law firms need to understand the requirements of the two positions, to identify a person who is suitable for each and give them the authority and support to enable them to undertake the roles on an on-going basis.
“We believe accountancy and advisory businesses such as ourselves can play a major role in guiding law firms through this regulatory minefield and supporting the holders of the newly created roles.”
The seminar saw the launch of the Crowe Clark Whitehill Midlands COFA Network.  This group will provide an opportunity for COFAs to get together with their peers to discuss common issues they face, review best practice and receive appropriate training, all with a view to helping them fulfil their role effectively.  As well as face-to-face meetings, a LinkedIn group has been set up to enable members of the Network to discuss issues on line.
Mr Dudley said: “As with any new role, it will take time for the COFA to fully understand the position and the responsibilities it carries.  They may also find it is a lonely position as they seek to monitor other members of their firms.  The Network will help the COFA to get to grips with the role and find support when required.”
The first face-to-face meeting of the Network will be on February 22 at Crowe Clark Whitehill’s office at 8.30am.