By Legal Futures’ Associate The Access Group
One of the key changes in the new SRA Standards & Regulations will require you and your firm to evidence how you are meeting your compliance obligations, for example:
“You are able to justify your decisions and actions in order to demonstrate compliance with your obligations under the SRA’s regulatory arrangements.” Requirement 7.2 (Solicitors)
“You have effective governance structures, arrangement, system and controls in place.” Requirement 2.1 (Firms)
“You keep and maintain records to demonstrate compliance with your obligations under the SRA’s regulatory arrangements.” Requirement 2.2 (Firms)
What you need to do
- You need to have appropriate policies in place
One key way of complying with the above requirements is to have appropriate policies in place by the 25th November 2019. You can use these to train staff and tell them what is expected of them, enforce what your firm expects to see in terms of compliance, and to show the SRA should it ask to see evidence of what you are doing.
- You need to review your accounts policies
As the SRA has removed the current prescribed timescales for dealing with client monies and replaced these with “promptly”, you will need to assess what would work for your firm but be seen as reasonable by the SRA. For example, if you have had previous breaches of the 48-hour rule retaining this as your definition of “promptly” would not be appropriate as you would continue to breach this timescale.
- You will need to maintain records to demonstrate compliance
The SRA clearly wants firms to be able to evidence how they comply with the Standards so ensuring appropriate policies and audit trails are in place is key.
The competency of staff flows throughout the new Standards so ensuring you have an appropriate training strategy and accompanying policies will be essential. This area is currently under focus by the Legal Services Board that is looking at whether solicitors should be subject to regular re-validation to ensure they are fit and proper to hold practising certificates. As a consequence, the SRA will want to show the Legal Services Board that the current competency regime works and is likely to do this by checking how firms are meeting these requirements.
- You need to review how you deal with self-interest conflicts arising out of identified acts or omission
An area that has come into sharp focus since the prosecution by the SRA of Howell Jones Solicitors in relation to continuing to act when an act/omission that could lead to a claim had been identified, is how this self-interest precedent will stand from the 25th November 2019, when the new SRA Standards and Regulations come into force.
The SRA said at its recent Compliance Officers Conference that it will be issuing guidance in this area after the 25 November, but in the meantime has said that firms can continue to act for clients if the issue can be resolved quickly and easily, but that should matters be more technical and/or require a report to be made to indemnity insurers then clients should be told to seek independent legal advice.
The Access Group can help
There are a number of ways in which The Access Group can help you to comply with the new Standards and Regulations. We can provide you with:
- A set of policies which will be compliant with the new SRA Standards and Regulations (these will also be Lexcel and CQS compliant), this will avoid you having to completely re-write you own policy library.
- Risk and compliance software.
- eLearning on compliance and regulations relevant to law firms, including the SRA Standards and Regulations and Accounts Rules.
- Compliance services delivered by a team of compliance experts.
- Software to evidence decision making and compliance including File Audit, Risk Register, Breaches and Complaint modules.