SRA warns many risk missing COLPs and COFAs deadline

The SRA Executive Director with overall responsibility for the appointment of these key roles warned today that several hundred firms could start the New Year without having their compliance officers in place.

Samantha Barrass told the Risk Management for Law Firms conference at Holborn Bars that, the majority of the profession had been fully co-operative with the nominations process.

However, there were still a significant number of firms, largely in the small firm category (up to four partners) who had failed either to complete the process or in some cases even start it.

Whilst some had failed to nominate compliance officers, a significant number of firms have nominated individuals who would not be approved, due to disciplinary and other significant issues.

Ms Barrass said: "As a result of the issues I have highlighted, we estimate that several hundred firms will not have a COLP and COFA in place by 31 December 2012. All these firms will be in breach of their licensing conditions or practice regulations.

"Appointing COLPs and COFAs is not an administrative exercise, nor optional. Firms have a regulatory obligation to appoint them.

"These roles are an integral part of our move to outcomes-focused regulation. They are key to building confidence that firms will take responsibility for managing risks to their delivery of competent and ethical legal services – because the best protection for clients is well-run, ethical firms.”

The SRA is currently engaging with firms that have not yet completed the nomination process, or who have nominated unsuitable individuals.

Ms Barrass stressed: "Our priority for next three or so weeks is to get as many COLPs and COFAs as possible in place by 1 January. We have a team in place supporting this process and talking to the firms involved.

"But we will be taking proportionate enforcement action against those who failed, without good reason, to meet the deadlines set in the nomination process, or who failed to disclose information when they were required to do so.

“Serious cases of non-disclosure will be dealt with accordingly and initial enforcement action has already commenced in respect of firms who have so far failed to complete the nomination process."

Those who have not yet been contacted by the SRA and whose nomination was submitted before 31 July, can take the view that ‘no news is good news’ and they will receive their approval before 31 December.

The speech is available on the SRA’s website here

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