From 1 January 2013, the new outcomes-focused regulation (OFR) regime is likely to involve ongoing time commitments for your new compliance officers for legal practice and finance and administration (COLP and COFA).
At Milsted Langdon our expertise in working with legal practices means we are ideally placed to assist with your compliance responsibilities and provide cost-effective support for your COFA.
The COFA’s key responsibilities – ensuring all reasonable steps are taken to confirm that the firm and its employees comply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) Accounts Rules that any non-compliance issues are recorded and referred to the SRA – means that the post-holder will need the seniority necessary to gain cross-practice co-operation in implementing change and to have the required access to financial information to ensure compliance.
However, the potential diversion of a fee earner or a senior employee’s time to compliance issues could have a potentially significant impact on a practice, particularly in smaller firms where the COFA is more likely to be a partner, member or director.
While the COFA, like the COLP, cannot be an external appointment, outsourcing compliance tasks is a common-sense solution to ensure that key responsibilities are taken care of, while the COFA concentrates on overseeing the overall compliance function. Milsted Langdon’s COFA support services include:
- assessing accounting systems and controls to ensure fitness for purpose
- monitoring and regularly reviewing accounting systems and controls to ensure that they are working effectively
- providing training – induction and ongoing – in the SRA Accounts Rules to support practice compliance, including specific training, e.g. for fee earners
- regularly reviewing and analysing fee earners’ active files from a financial perspective to identify any trends that require action and any breaches
- regularly reviewing client and office ledger balances
- bank account reconciliations
- reviewing risk management procedures and advising on opportunities to enhance firm-specific controls to minimise risk e.g. of fraud and to safeguard assets
- documenting all financial, control and risk management systems as a valuable reference tool for the firm and its employees.