SRA Risk Outlook 2016 and how this affects you
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have released their 2016/17 Risk Outlook, outlining the main areas of risk within the legal sector, what this means to you and actions that can be taken in order to manage these risks. Over a series of articles, we will be looking into how this affects conveyancing and comparing findings to other advice and reports.
Throughout the last 12 months, cybercrime and technology have been at the forefront of concerns for conveyancers, with an ever-increasing number of firms turning digital to store sensitive information, communicate with clients and producing documents. With more than 1 in 4 consumers accessing legal services online, it’s important for conveyancers to adapt to this growing trend in order to gain new and retain current clients.
According to the Risk Outlook, use of technology is at the forefront of growth strategies for legal businesses, but with implementation comes a stream of risks, required processes, policies, checks and overall worry for your firm. Honing in on the fundamentals is key to an effective risk management strategy, and remembering that this affects all conveyancing firms, not just large, high value businesses. Criminals are aware that targeting the weaker of the prospects may not bring a big win, but it’s an almost guaranteed return.
Risks, however, aren’t only directly associated with criminal activity as you may think. The SRA Risk Outlook also covers areas that affect quality of service provision to clients and even risks before legal services are even taken up.
Paul Butt, a consultant at Rowlinsons Solicitors, said: “At a time when the SRA is often criticised by practitioners for being out of touch with their needs, it is refreshing to see the organisation addressing the risks facing the profession. Perhaps the greatest risk facing conveyancers at the moment is that of fraud – and cybercrime in particular, and the SRA is to be congratulated in featuring this so prominently. All conveyancers – whether regulated by the SRA or not – would be advised to look at the section dealing with cybercrime as a reminder of those risks and to make sure that their systems do include the suggested ways of combating them.
“The recognition in the section on Money Laundering that compliance can be challenging for smaller firms is also welcomed as it is conveyancing firms that carry a very heavy responsibility in this area. The reminders of the need to keep ourselves and our staff up to date in this area and of how to implement the required procedures cost effectively are again useful reading for all conveyancers.
“The other big risk facing conveyancers at the moment is the risk of a reduction in the number of conveyancing transactions – and the affect this will have on the prosperity of firms and their employees – if the Brexit vote results in a lasting fall in confidence as to what the future may bring or in economic output. But this is, of course, outside the remit of the SRA.”
What is the main source of business for your firm; is this costing you valuable time and money? Is this sustainable and will it allow your firm to grow at a satisfactory rate to compete against your rivals? Do you have an effective complaints procedure and are you able to manage vulnerable clients? Can you act with integrity during difficult cases?