From 1st January 2013 the COLP and COFA roles are set to go. As a sole practitioner, independent, or owner/lawyer of a smaller firm, you’re pretty likely to be facing up to one or both of these responsibilities – on your own.
With the festive season set to come and go before you can say Compliance Officer for Legal Practice, are you clear on what these new jobs mean (besides having more letters by your name)?
Lets start with the basics. COLPs (Compliance Officer for Legal Practice) and COFAs (Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration) have different responsibilities. You can be one, or both. Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re either very keen, or at least one of the two.
The COLP has the toughest rap. COLPs cover:
- SRA Handbook (apart from the SRA Account Rules – the COFA takes that for the team)
- Any terms and conditions under which the firm is authorised
- Other relevant legislation like anti-money laundering and data protection
The COFA covers the SRA Accounts rules.
Sounds simple enough? Well…Yes and no
On top of these roles, both have three core duties:
- Take all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the SRA Handbook
- Report compliance failures to the SRA
- Keep a record of compliance failures and give these to the SRA on request
What exactly does that mean? We can’t quite be sure at this stage, but it doesn’t sound too bad. The phase all reasonable steps, combined with the rules relating to disqualification and withdrawal of approval, strongly suggests the SRA doesn’t intend to impose strict liability within a firm.
But this probably doesn’t make you feel much better.
If you’re in one of these roles, you are ultimately responsible for compliance. As a sole practitioner or owner/lawyer of your own firm, you simply cannot get away from it – even if you had the money, you couldn’t pay anyone to take the pain away. The SRA drills home: the firm and its managers are not absolved from any of their own obligations and remain fully responsible for compliance.
So you’re stuck with it
Best get started then. Stay tuned – the next blog post suggests what to start with – and by when.
Can’t wait? Download Allison Wooddisse’s definitive compliance thrival guide: Comply or Die.
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