Driving compliance out of the museum

As an organisation, we recently held the fifth conference for Compliance Officers for Legal Practice (COLPs) and Compliance Officers for Finance and Administration (COFAs). COLPs and COFAs are instrumental in creating a culture of compliance throughout a firm, becoming its focal point for the identification of risk, and the key point of contact for us.

We welcomed around 1,000 delegates to Birmingham’s National Motorcycle Museum. They enjoyed interesting presentations and lively discussions on topics ranging from cybercrime and anti-money laundering to solicitors’ training and better information for the public.

The conference was the perfect place to learn about how law firms are meeting the demands of people and businesses who need legal help.

The Research and Analysis team had a stand at the conference, handing out hundreds of the Risk Outlook 2017/18 and the Improving access—tackling unmet legal needs paper. We enjoyed learning more from the experiences of delegates and attending the panel discussions and workshops. Here are some of the messages we took away from the day.

Preparation is key

All firms need to prepare for the new Government regulations for anti-money laundering and data protection. The General Data Protection Regulations that come into force in May 2018 mean that firms must update their data protection policies and make sure they do not fall foul of the stricter rules. And the new anti-money laundering regulations require firms to be more vigilant and thorough in their due diligence.

All staff in a firm need to be prepared for these new Government regulations either by hearing more from their COLP/COFA or by attending external training.

Training is important

Talking of training, all staff would probably benefit from information security training as they are the main defence against all such attacks, including cyber attacks. Training can often be focussed on fee earners, but finance and all client-facing staff have a key role in keeping a firm safe.

Read our topic paper IT and innovation to learn more about how IT can help. We know many firms are concerned about how to keep client data and money safe in an increasingly online world. Our report IT Security: keeping information and money safe provides the latest tips on keeping cyber-secure.

Other conference topics

We are working to develop the Solicitors Qualifying Examination to be a world-class assessment. Delegates were very interested in the rigorous assessments that are planned and how this will promote a diverse profession by widening the access to the profession. We will work with firms and universities to make sure we achieve the best outcome.

Delegates were reassured by the session about better information, as they heard more about our proposals. For example, some delegates thought we might push them into using fixed fees but we, and the Competition and Markets Authority, want the public to understand the price, quality and service they can expect when they approach firms. We are currently consulting about how publishing better information can help the public make informed choices about the legal services they need. You can give us your views on this by 20 December 2017.

Keep talking to us!

We received a lot of positive feedback about how firms put the Risk Outlook and our other reports to use. And the questions posed during the panel discussions and workshops were constructive—helping us to learn more about what firms think about our reform programme.

The conference is always a great way for us to talk to solicitors about our work and to hear about your work. We look forward to seeing you next year.

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