News releases

First round of COLP and COFA approvals

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued its first tranche of approvals for the key posts of Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA).

The COLP and COFA appointments are an essential part of the SRA's approach to improving regulation and ensuring public confidence in legal services. They will be a focal point in ensuring that the 11,000 or so practices in England and Wales have appropriate systems and controls in place to comply with regulatory requirements.

Notifications of approval will continue to be sent out in the coming weeks. Both the individuals involved and a firm's authorised signatory will receive an e-mail to tell them of this decision. However, those who have not yet received notification are urged not to ring the SRA since the notification process will continue until 31 December.

Those firms selected at random to test the robustness of the SRA's self-declaration system and some 700 firms identified by the SRA's risk model as requiring further inquiries are subject to further scrutiny. Decisions on these nominations are expected before the end of December.

The SRA is also engaging with firms and their nominees where significant suitability issues have been disclosed or are arising, or where those nominated are not regulated by the SRA and hence the SRA needs to undertake further background checks.

Samantha Barrass, SRA Executive Director, said: "These roles are a critical foundation for outcomes-focused regulation, in particular building confidence that firms will take responsibility for managing risks to their delivery of competent and ethical legal services.

"That we're now in a position to authorise the first round of compliance officers marks a huge step in the process. However, we are disappointed that, despite repeated requests, some firms have still not nominated nearly four months after the final deadline.

"While we will have to undertake proportionate enforcement action in these cases, our principal aim is to ensure that as many firms as possible have approved COLPs and COFAs in place by the end of the year.

"The first part of this action will involve an "explanation with warning" letter, which will be sent to the firms that have not yet adequately explained why there is no record of their completed nomination. We very much hope that this process will bring down the numbers of outstanding nominations."

COLPs and COFAs will take up their duties from 1 January 2013. All compliance officers need to be approved by 31 December and any firm that does not have individuals in place and approved by the SRA will be in breach of the regulations. Likely regulatory sanctions could range from reprimands and fines through to the revocation of a firm's licence or recognition.

Further information on COLPs and COFAs and OFR is below.

More on COLPs and COFAs

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