How Stowe Family Law remain compliant throughout rapid growth

Access LegalBy Legal Futures Associate Access Legal

Stowe Family Law is the biggest family law practice in the UK. Having had fewer than 20 offices in 2017, they have grown rapidly and now boast more than 80 offices across the UK as of December 2023, following the acquisition of Crisp & Co, which added 14 offices across the South of England.

However, such rapid and continued growth brings with it challenges and risks, as Samantha Argyle, Head of Risk and Compliance at Stowe Family Law says, “the biggest risk for us at the moment is keeping up with the growth and the risks that arise from it.”

“Especially following what happened with Axiom Ince, we need to make sure we’re doing everything that we should be doing, that the regulator expects us to be doing and to proceed with caution.

“With this growth it also means more fee earners, more clients, which generally means more complaints and queries for my team to deal with and more lawyers to support and to ensure everybody is doing what they should be doing.”

How Access Legal helps Stowe Family Law to remain compliant

Access Legal provides a range of solutions to law firms to help drive compliance excellence within their firms, including case and practice management systems to help work on and record files compliantly, best in class legal compliance e-learningcompliance management software and a range of risk and compliance services, all of which are products and services in use by Stowe Family Law.

Managing files remotely

Many of us work from home, so having a cloud based practice management system like Access Legal Proclaim means we in the compliance team readily have access to all of our files remotely to get the information we need without having to bother fee earners. Having this remote access is essential when the firm is so broad in terms of locations across the UK as it wouldn’t be feasible for us to visit each location to audit files.

Data Protection Review

A key risk for many law firms is Data Protection and one of the services the Access Legal Risk and Compliance team offer is a Data Protection Review, whereby our experts will look at your data protection processes and let you know where you might be falling short and offer practical advice on how to rectify it. Stowe recently took this services, where Risk and Compliance Associate Rhiannon Davies, carried out the review.

It’s a good way to get someone else to tell you whether or not you are where you need to be or improvements to be made. The thing with being a law firm and dealing with the regulator is that you’re expected to know and be able to apply everything and get on with it, which you do, but you don’t really know if it’s right. And until the regulator comes along and does an audit, you won’t really know if it’s right. So it’s great to get the opinion of somebody else external to the firm who’s had experience with other firms as whether we are where we need to be.

Rhiannon was great. She sent over a checklist of things she wanted us to send over, confirmed timeframes and the results of the review were really easy to digest and were a great help and we’re now looking at taking an AML Review, as much of our work is financial remedy work, it falls within Money Laundering Regulations, but there’s very little guidance on how those regulations apply to family firms, so again, it would be great to get that external opinion.

I’ve also found the Compliance Helpline to be a great help as we’re able to bounce around ideas and get a sense check on things, so it gives us that reassurance that we’re on the right track and that we have support when we need it.

Continuing Competence

We’re part of the upcoming thematic review on how lawyers keep up with their professional obligations and continuing competence and we’re pretty confident about that because we use Access Legal’s GRC for Law Firms compliance training package and we also have a policy that everyone records all their learning, training and development on the Access Workspace training portal. That means we’ve instantly got it to hand, we can check it, do audits on it and check to make sure everybody’s plans are where they need to be.

Managing Compliance

We use the Access Legal Compliance Management system to record data breaches and subject access requests, so mainly the GDPR modules, but we also record gifts and hospitality in the gifts register. We can then use all the extensive reports from the system which really simplifies the way we manage our compliance and helps us to identify where there may be any training needs or things that need improvement.

Simplify Compliance

Whenever a law firm grows, so too does its risk profile, none more so than when that growth is through mergers and acquisitions as new firms are acquired that may have a very different risk appetite, different cultures and ways of working and recording things. That’s why it’s so important to have robust policies and procedures in place and the right tech to make sure that managing compliance is as simple as possible and scales with the growth of the law firm.

This is something Stowe Family Law have achieved by partnering with Access Legal for a range of products and services, benefiting from our breadth and experience to enhance and simplify the way they do compliance at scale.


Associate News is provided by Legal Futures Associates.
Find out about becoming an Associate


Loading animation