First round of COLP and COFA approvals

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has issued its first set of approvals for the key posts of Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA).

COLPs and COFAs will take up their duties from 1 January 2013 and need to be approved by 31 December.

Any firm that does not have individuals in place and approved by the SRA will be in breach of the regulations.

Likely regulatory sanctions could range from reprimands and fines through to the revocation of a firm’s licence or recognition.

Notifications of approval will continue to be sent out in the coming weeks.

Both the individuals involved and a firm’s authorised signatory will receive an e-mail to tell them of this decision.

Firms who have not yet received notifications are urged not to ring the SRA as the notification process will continue until 31 December.

These appointments are part of the SRA’s approach to improving regulation and ensuring public confidence in legal services.

The posts will be responsible for ensuring that the 11,000 or so practices in England and Wales have appropriate systems and controls in place to comply with regulatory requirements.

The SRA is also engaging with firms and their nominees where significant suitability issues have arisen.

Samantha Barrass, SRA Executive Director, said: "These roles are a critical foundation for outcomes-focused regulation, in particular building confidence that firms will take responsibility for managing risks to their delivery of competent and ethical legal services.

"That we’re now in a position to authorise the first round of compliance officers marks a huge step in the process. However, we are disappointed that, despite repeated requests, some firms have still not nominated nearly four months after the final deadline.

"While we will have to undertake proportionate enforcement action in these cases, our principal aim is to ensure that as many firms as possible have approved COLPs and COFAs in place by the end of the year.”

If firms have not yet adequately explained why there is no record of their completed nomination they will receive an "explanation with warning" letter.

Further information on COLPs and COFAs and OFR is available at http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/freedom-in-practice/ofr/colp-cofa.page

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