OFR takes to the road to help law firms become more efficient – and avoid big penalties

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3 January 2012

Major changes in the way that legal firms are regulated are just over the horizon – with the potential for massive penalties for those who fail to comply. To keep them on the right side of the law, a roadshow is taking place in London and six regional centres during January and February, the result of a joint effort by Legal Futures Associates SIFA (Solicitors Independent Financial Advice) and law firm membership group and business consultancy 360 Legal Group.

Called “Turning the Legal Services Act and OFR to advantage”, the one-day events will also be looking at the positive side of the new regulations: the opportunities for law firms to improve their services to clients and make their businesses more efficient and profitable.

The events, which are each eligible for two hours’ Law Society CPD, will demystify outcomes-focused regulation (OFR), bringing law firms up-to-speed on the systems and controls necessary to ensure compliance. They will also explore how firms can turn the Legal Services Act to their advantage through new business models, joint ventures, strategic relationships and a holistic service which positions them as “trusted advisers” to clients – a positive evolution from “transaction-based” relationships.

The shows begin in London on 17 January and visit Newmarket, Bolton, Leeds, Exeter, Gloucestershire and the East Midlands, concluding on 7 February. The topics will include adapting to a new environment, the implications and opportunities of private equity in the legal market place, the practicalities of OFR and the role of compliance officers for legal practice and for finance and administration, business models for the future and the role of the trusted adviser.

Viv Williams, chief executive of 360 Legal Group, says: “Solicitors are largely unfamiliar with principles-based regulation and there is an urgent need to understand what OFR will mean to them and how they prepare their practices. With penalties for failures to comply set to be up to £50 million for individuals and up to £250 million for firms, law firms clearly cannot afford to get this wrong and need to understand clearly and concisely the path they need to take. Our road shows will support that aim.”

Ian Muirhead, SIFA director, adds: “The basis of OFR is the maintenance of management systems and controls which also serve to assist solicitors in making their businesses more efficient and better-equipped to compete against the new entrants to the legal market – and be competitive in the post-Legal Services Act environment. Properly applied, OFR can actually help law firms differentiate their client proposition and we want to show how law firms can make the new legislation work to their advantage.”

Bookings can be made at www.sifa-centre.info by clicking on COLP and COFA support service. roadshows at a cost of £50 (including VAT) per delegate, while the events are free to 360 Legal Group members.

SIFA, the representative body for solicitor financial advisors, was launched by solicitor Ian Muirhead in 1992 to help other solicitors set up and run a financial services department, and to facilitate relationships between IFAs and solicitors. Its expertise in OFR comes from 10 years’ experience in helping its 180 member independent financial advisers adhere to the principles of the Financial Services Authority.

With the precedent for OFR being the FSA regime, SIFA believes it is ideally equipped to assist law firms in this area. SIFA’s board comprises senior ex-Law Society directors and it is recognised by the FSA.

The 360 Legal Group (www.360legalgroup.co.uk), which has been helping law firms manage their businesses more effectively and efficiently since 2004, has a wealth of understanding and expertise of working with law firms helping its clients get work, save costs and restructure.

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