COLP & COFA
As of 1 January 2013, solicitors’ firms and other SRA authorised legal services organisations must have a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) as well as a Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA).
These roles are a crucial part of the SRA’s move to ‘outcome focussed regulation’ and will be the focal points within firms for ensuring compliance with regulatory obligations:
- The COLP is required to take all reasonable steps to ensure the firm complies with all terms and conditions of its authorisation (except any obligations imposed under the SRA Accounts Rules) including compliance with the Code of Conduct and with relevant statutory obligations;
- The COFA is required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the firm, its employees and managers, comply with any obligations imposed under the SRA Accounts Rules.
Both roles are also responsible for keeping a record of any breaches of these obligations, for informing the SRA of any material failure (either taken on its own or as part of a pattern of failures) ‘as soon as reasonably practical’ and for reporting all non-material failures to the SRA in the annual information report.
Proper performance of these roles is therefore essential for any firm’s compliance with its regulatory obligations. The SRA has made it clear that the management of the firm has ultimate responsibility for regulatory compliance, and that it will be up the management to assess the effectiveness of their COLP & COFA.
You will therefore need, with your COLP & COFA, to consider issues such as:
- What processes will you put in place to ensure effective regulatory compliance? These are not prescribed by the SRA. Instead you will to decide what is appropriate for your firm taking into account its size, structure, type of work and clients.
- What are your key areas of regulatory risk?
- How will you ensure that breaches of the Handbook are recorded? Does your firm have a whistle- blowing policy? Which breaches will be ‘material’?
- How will the COLP and COFA operate within your particular structure? Will the reporting lines be sufficiently clear to ensure effective performance? Will the role holders have sufficient access to information and resources?
How we can help
Our team of experts includes SRA consultants with experience and detailed insight into compliance issues. This combined with our expertise in risk and business management means that we are confident that we can offer the right mix of skills to assist you. Our services include:
- A COLP & COFA ‘gap’ analysis – helping you to decide where your processes and systems need to be improved for effective compliance;
- Our own COLP & COFA compliance system and ongoing support to help you ensure that you have the right systems in place to meet the Handbook requirements. Unlike some other compliance systems, this goes much further than simply repeating the requirements, but provides a detailed framework which you can adopt or tailor to your firm’s individual needs;
- Advice on individual issues and problems.