Monthly Archives: January 2012

Do you have a compliance plan?

Chapter 7 of the Code of Conduct and Rule 8.2 of the Authorisation Rules require firms to have suitable compliance arrangements. Note (iii) to Rule 8 sets out some examples of what the SRA considers should be covered by a firm?s compliance plan.

[col1]There is no explicit requirement to have a compliance plan as such. However, Outcome (7.1) requires a clear and effective governance structure and reporting lines which provide a transparent framework of responsibilities within the firm. Governance is essentially a commitment to business ethics, risk management and good practice. It involves not only having effective policies and procedures, but also proper auditing and review. A starting point is to have a compliance plan which provides a clear statement of compliance intent. Without a written compliance plan, a firm might struggle to persuade the SRA that it is aware of the compliance issues it needs to address and that it is taking appropriate steps to deal with them. The plan should set out the firm?s governance arrangements and how the firm intends to maintain and review compliance. It should also cover the compliance duties of the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and the Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA) together with other roles within the firm.[/col1]

[col2]The SRA has warned firms against being attached to the old 2007 Code and said that firms would be running a risk if they adopted a ‘painting by numbers approach’ and as a result failed to deliver ethical and competent practice. The SRA is looking for genuine, contextualised engagement with the Principles and Outcomes. Many firms do not appear yet to have considered all the changes that they need to make to ensure that they comply. With the Handbook having been in force since last October, firms should not be waiting until their COLPs and COFAs take up their reins of office at the end of October this year to deal with these issues. Having a robust compliance plan will help firms demonstrate that they are working towards full compliance and that they are adopting a systematic and effective approach towards achieving compliance.[/col2]

Nik Heelam and Jonathan Fidler join Legal Compliance Services

Ex-SRA Practice Standards Advisers Nik Heelam and Jonathan Fidler have recently joined their former colleague Richard Robinson at Legal Compliance Services. Between the three of them Richard, Nik and Jonathan have over 30 years? experience in giving compliance assistance to law firms.

[col1]Nik Heelam gained extensive experience in private practice for more than a decade before joining the Law Society in 2003. Having worked as a fee earner and progressing to senior management level, he also has practical expertise in the creation and audit of quality, risk and compliance systems, advising on and resolving professional conduct issues, solicitors accounts, complaints handling and finding commercial solutions to avoiding conflicts of interests.

At the Law Society, Nik was responsible for the training and supervision of a team of caseworkers investigating allegations of serious and/or multiple breaches of the rules of professional conduct within the profession. He then joined the SRA?s Practice Standards Unit.

Nik has a keen eye for the identification of risk and quality issues and breaches of the various professional rules, through audit of both fee earner files and central policy and procedure. He has regularly provided ethical, regulatory and client care guidance to firms, encouraging best practice whilst always adopting a commercially aware and proportionate approach. Having provided support and assistance in the design, delivery and effective audit of systems, policies, procedures and standard documentation, Nik is an expert on OFR and the new Handbook.[/col1]

[col2]Jonathan Fidler, a qualified solicitor, spent over eight years with the profession?s regulator as a Practice Standards Adviser. In that time he gained a reputation for combining a sound understanding of compliance requirements with a practical approach to the implementation of suitable systems and processes.

Jonathan participated in regulatory initiatives to assist newly established firms to embed compliance into their business processes from the outset. Latterly, he contributed to a detailed research programme which helped shape the regulator?s current outcomes-focused approach to regulation.

Prior to working with the profession?s regulator, Jonathan gained wide-ranging business experience as a principal in an IT consultancy practice and as the commercial director of a fast-growing software company.

Jonathan?s experience of working in private practice, as in-house Counsel and with the regulator has enabled him to gain an holistic perspective of compliance and the relationship between commercial realities and regulatory requirements. His guidance and support to firms is correspondingly pragmatic.[/col2]