Speaking at the COLPs and COFAs Conference in Holborn Bars on Thursday, 18 October, SRA Executive Director Samantha Barrass, reported on the progress that had been made since announcing the start of the compliance officers' nomination process in May this year, and the benefits of co-operation and proactive engagement between the SRA and the regulated community.
The majority of firms had met the SRA's nomination deadline of 31 July and many more had responded to the SRA's direct communications and engagement once the deadline had passed, a clear demonstration of how the SRA's proportionate approach to regulation was working in practice.
However, Ms Barrass reported that there were still a few hundred remaining who had not completed the process. The approach to these firms, she stated, is switching from that of 'constructive engagement to enforcement action'. The aim of such action, she explained, was 'to send a message more broadly that we will take action against those who fail properly to cooperate and so hopefully reduce the risk that the fees you pay will be wasted in needless chasing of firms and enforcement action in the future.'
All nominations were being checked for their suitability and thousands of nominations had already been through this process. The SRA was on target to approve nominations by the end of the year.
Ms Barrass stressed that ongoing dialogue with compliance officers was a priority for the SRA and a communications framework would be put in place that would include the publication of information on the website such as case studies and alerts, and the organisation of workshops and webinars.
She also revealed that the SRA would be supporting compliance officers in their new roles by sharing information about the SRA's risk framework. This would help to establish a shared understanding between the SRA and firms on the SRA's view of current and emerging risks, supporting firms' identification and management of risk.
One year on from the introduction of outcomes-focused regulation, Ms Barrass gave examples of how the SRA's new approach to supervision was working in practice. She focused on a selection of anonymised case studies that demonstrated the differing approaches taken by firms in co-operating and engaging with the SRA - and the impact this had on both clients and regulatory costs.
She concluded by saying that compliance officers' roles were a key part of outcomes-focused regulation, where clear responsibility for managing risks to the delivery of competent and ethical legal services was on firms themselves, thereby leaving the SRA to focus resources where they are needed most. She stressed that the COLP and COFA were not to be regarded as ‘sacrificial lambs' in that firms, and particularly senior managers, held the ultimate responsibility for creating a firm-wide culture of compliance.
Read the full speech (PDF 7 pages, 81K).