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14 May 2012

In her latest blog on COLPs and COFAs, Allison Wooddisse, head of Legal Futures Associate LexisPSL Practice Compliance, discusses what firms should include in a COLP’s job description

Yes, sir: what duties should a COLP be required to undertake?

At some stage in your career – probably many years ago – someone will have asked you to describe your perfect job or where you saw yourself in 10 years’ time.


Maybe you talked earnestly about your burning desire to bring justice to the masses. More likely, you claimed that your ultimate goal was to be partner in the interviewer’s fine establishment. Chances are you didn’t say: “What I want, what I really really want, is to be a compliance officer for legal practice (COLP).”


If the COLP finger is pointing firmly at you, now would be a good time to keep an ever closer eye on Legal Futures and the SRA website. If you do, you’ll know that:

  • The COLP and COFA nomination process opens on 31 May 2012;
  • The nomination deadline is 31 July 2012;
  • The SRA will e-mail your authorised signatory in late May with a link to a web-based nomination form;
  • You will probably have to provide the SRA with a copy of your firm’s governance structures, showing where you COLP and COFA sit within your organisation;
  • The SRA will ask for details of the compliance officer role within your firm, which may be supported by a job description/role profile document;
  • The final nomination form is still not available; and
  • The SRA is sorry for the delay.

Too much?

Next month I will discuss the nomination requirements in detail, when the SRA finally lifts the veil of mystery and reveals exactly what is required. In the meantime, I want to discuss what you should include in a COLP job description. The decision you need to make is how much is too much, ie whether to limit the job description to the core compulsory duties, or widen out the job description to incorporate ancillary duties that are necessary to deliver the core compulsory duties.

The choice is yours, but we’d advocate the latter approach, so that everyone is clear about what the job really involves. The table below should help you to distinguish between compulsory and ancillary duties.

Duty Compulsory
Promote a culture of regulatory compliance within the firm No
Take all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with:

  • Any terms and conditions under which the firm is authorised by the SRA to provide legal services;
  • The prevailing SRA Handbook, apart from the SRA Accounts Rules 2011;
  • Any other statutory or regulatory obligations with which the firm, its managers, employees or interest holders must comply in relation to the firm carrying out authorised activities
Devise and implement an internal compliance failure reporting process, to include anonymous reporting of compliance failures No
Maintain a record of compliance failures in a form that allows the COLP and the firm to:

  • Monitor overall compliance with obligations
  • Assess the effectiveness of the firm’s systems
  • Identify at an early stage compliance failures that are material either in their own right or because they form a pattern
Yes, for the basic duty to keep a record of failures.These points are in a guidance note to the authorisation rules, rather than in the rules themselves


Ensure the firm’s compliance failure register is made available to the SRA on request Yes
Review the compliance failure register at regular intervals to establish whether any action is required No
Report all compliance failures that are material (either individually or as part of a pattern) as soon as reasonably practicable to:a)      The SRA

b)      [the managing partner/COO/CEO/Board/risk partner]


a)      Yes

b)      No

Report non-material compliance failures to the SRA on an annual basis or such other period as specified by the SRA in the prescribed form and by the date prescribed by the SRA. Yes
Prepare and maintain a compliance plan No
Maintain a calendar or task list of compliance activities with reminders to ensure key compliance dates are met No
Establish proper policies and processes in all areas of compliance No
Keep abreast of any regulatory or other compliance changes that may affect the firm and, as necessary:

  • Amend existing compliance policies and processes;
  • Devise and implement new compliance policies and processes
Ensure staff are trained on:

  • Any relevant compliance arrangements and policies;
  • Their duty to internally report compliance failures to the COLP or COFA
Liaise , as required, with the firm’s [COFA/complaints partner/negligence partner/nominated officer/other] to ensure appropriate sharing of information and consistency of approach No
Prepare a compliance report at regular intervals No

Stop right now

Once you’ve drafted a job description, you might find that your COLP comes over a little faint. This would be a good time to think about COLP indemnity and/or insurance. For more guidance on this thorny subject, see my blog from February.


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