10 things you must do as COLP [2021 update]
This was a fun little project! We went through some of our posts from 2012 (ah, simpler times…), when the COLP and COFA roles were just being introduced, to see how they could be updated for 2021.
Aside from finding a load of typos and awkward phrasing, it was a pleasant surprise to find that the main gist of the advice remains relevant.
Here are the ten things:
- Read the rules (and guidance)
- Negotiate protection
- Analyse your business, think strategically
- Take the risk management bull by the horns
- Fill those compliance gaps
- Make your compliance plan
- Put systems and procedures in place
- Train your staff
- Record, record, record
- A COLP’s job is never done
What’s the one thing you wished you would have known before becoming COLP?
9 things you must do as COFA [2021 update]
Another update from 2012. The purpose of this one was not so much to dive into the Accounts Rules, but to prepare would-be COFAs for their integral role.
We noticed that the original post had two item 3s, so was actually a list of ten. Perhaps we should have left this in as a test of attention to detail and numeracy!
Here are the nine things:
- Read “10 things you must do as COLP”
- Become an Accounts Rules expert
- Get to know your COLP counterpart
- Realise that you are not the smaller fish
- Make sure billing is done correctly
- Provide relevant information
- Ensure you have authority and access
- Monitor financial stability
What’s been your biggest challenge as COFA?
You will not enjoy this article: Law firms need to monitor their financial stability
You will not enjoy this article. There’s nothing “feel good” about it, and it’s uncomfortable, but read it anyway. That’s because it’s about that gut-clenching topic: financial stability.
We know where we should be, as SRA Code for Firms 2.4 makes starkly clear. A practice’s regulatory duty is to “…actively monitor your financial stability and business viability”.
The bit that’s not made clear of course is the how….How do we know we are financially stable? How do we know our business is still viable? At what point would, or should, it be evident to us that we are not, and that we need to take steps to wind down?
We warned you this is uncomfortable stuff, but take heart: if we can calibrate what we mean as lawyers by financial stability, we can measure ourselves objectively. Realistically, we will need discipline to do that consistently, sidestepping any (entirely natural, but inexcusable) inertia, and overcoming any tendency to take the rosy-tinted view. Can we design the equivalent of a calibrated flask (think of test tubes in a chemistry lab) which will tell us all is well?
- AML Sectoral Risk Assessment – Important document and well worth the 15-minute read, especially if you are getting into new service lines. Acting for overseas legalised cannabis producers has been singled out as an emerging high risk area.
Law Society practice notes and updates
- Legal Services Board ongoing competence call for evidence – LSB looking to push ahead with reforms to ‘CPD’ (now Continuing Competence) to drive up standards in the profession, stating that ‘the public expects more‘. If the LSB gets its way, this is likely to see increased SRA supervision to bolster the system of self-certification brought in four year ago.
- HMRC – trust registration extension – an overview – Essential reading for any lawyers required to register express trusts under the new system being rolled out by HM Revenue & Customs.
Upcoming webinar – Let’s talk about financial stability
Our clients are invited to the latest in our series of webinars, taking place at 12pm on Wednesday 17th February via Zoom.
JBL consultant Paul McCluskey (formerly Head of Professional Practices at Lloyds Bank) will be discussing how to ensure your law firm is financially fit for the challenges that lie ahead.
This session is intended for COLPs, COFAs and finance teams. By the end of the session you will understand some of the practical things you can be doing to safeguard the financial stability of your legal practice.
Don’t forget – you can also use these sessions to ‘Ask Us Anything’ about risk, compliance, AML etc. So it really is worth turning up for the live event!
- Regulation: Friend or Foe
- 3 simple steps to drive increased income
- Funding your business and how to pay for it
- Overcoming the number 1 mistake
- Opportunity to share best practice
Spaces are limited due to our Zoom subscription, so if you or your team would like to join please don’t leave it to the last minute.
Registration invitations have gone out to clients – please let us know if yours hasn’t arrived.
Question of the week
“A paralegal has backdated documents – do I have to report to the SRA?”
This upsetting call came in during the week. Short answer – yes you do, and promptly.
It had come to light (from opponents in litigation) that the non-qualified file handler had falsified documents to cover up for the fact they had missed an Order in directions.
This is dishonest behaviour and meets the ‘serious’ test in the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors and Firms. The SRA takes all dishonesty very seriously. A solicitor would most likely find themselves struck off. A paralegal may find themselves subject to a Section 43 Order (effectively the same as a strike off). It is also almost certainly gross misconduct.
Despite any sympathy or loyalty to the individual, your hands are tied. You must report promptly. Otherwise you are also in the firing line. The opponent also has a duty to report in these circumstances, so the SRA will find out in any event.
Although the SRA does not routinely discipline firms for the dishonest behaviour of ‘bad apples’ (arguably in situations where they should), you should be prepared for some uncomfortable questions. Remember this is now partly a self-preservation exercise, so take some time to evaluate how this situation came about.
- Is this breach indicative of wider problems within your firm? For example, poor management, overworked staff, toxic environments and inappropriate incentives.
- Was this person properly supervised?
- If not, how will you improve things?
- What additional systems could be put in place to stop this happening again?
- Have you trained all staff on basic professional ethics and the SRA conduct rules?
- Ramachandren Narayanasamy – struck off for lying to the Court.
- Edward Bryn Bennett – rebuked following a 2019 police caution for the ‘assault by beating’ of a female family member.
- Lawrence Peter McCullagh – suspended indefinitely for lying to his employer about having been dismissed previously.
- Karamjeet Kaur – struck off for “reckless mismanagement” of her firm, leading to serious Accounts Rules breaches. Her inexperienced COFA (Yasar Malik), not a solicitor, received a Section 43 Order, effectively banning him from the profession.
- Gary James Burns – conveyancer struck off for making dishonest statements to various parties about the progression of his cases, and blaming support staff.
- Rizwana Jamil – struck off for being dishonest and “manifestly incompetent and reckless over a protracted period”, including lying to an immigration client about the progress of their application over the course of several years.