At the end of this month, any business providing legal services will have to nominate a Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP), who will be responsible for ensuring compliance with the firm’s regulatory obligations and a Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA), who will be responsible for ensuring their firm’s compliance with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) account rules.
The nomination process was to start on March 31 but was delayed and will now begin on May 31 and close on July 31 but the SRA will not check every law firm’s nomination and will take a risked-based approach “to check that sensible judgement has been exercised by the firm” in the nomination process
The COLP and the COFA will be key individuals, as each role involves the appointment of an individual of sufficient seniority to manage extremely important duties, based on an approach that is sharply focused on the identification, mitigation and management of risk.
SRA rules say that the COLP must be a lawyer but doesn’t necessarily have to be a manager in the firm and could just be an employee. The COFA need not even be a lawyer and again may be a manger or employee. However, as the appointee in both cases must be of sufficient seniority and in a position of sufficient responsibility to fulfil the role, it is unlikely for either not to be a full equity partner.
The SRA is also at pains to point out that the nomination of a COLP and COFA does not absolve senior managers from their own responsibilities. In small firms it is likely that both roles will be fulfilled by the same person, which the SRA allows.