From speaking with many money laundering reporting officers (MLROs) over the years, it seems that few actively sought out the role, but were often chosen because:
- their area of the practice was likely to generate the most anti-money laundering compliance requirements;
- they were the firm’s expert on legal professional privilege;
- it just seemed to fit with the other management roles they had; or
- they missed the partnership meeting were the role was allocated and were unable to come up with a good excuse to give it to someone else.
While the role may seem daunting at the outset, the Law Society provides a lot of support to help you master the topic and provide good quality advice to your firm and your clients.
Within this new regular feature, the Law Society’s policy team, Practice Advice Service and Money Laundering Taskforce (all of whom are proud AML anoraks) will seek to highlight the resources available to you, give you tips on how to manage fee earners' and management's expectations, and help you avoid some of the common pitfalls for newcomers.
With any luck some of our enthusiasm for the subject may rub off on you and you may come to agree that anti-money laundering can be one of the most interesting areas of legal practice on offer.
Where to begin
1. Make sure you are registered as the firm’s MLRO with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
The Law Society and the SRA use the same contact database, so by registering with the SRA this ensures that you will definitely be advised of any significant changes to legislation or regulatory requirements in this area. You can do this through the annual firm registration form, mySRA or the contact centre.
2. Sign up for the Law Society's AML e-newsletter
The fact that you are reading this article increases the chances that you are either already signed up to the e-newsletter or that someone has sent you a copy. The e-newsletter will keep you up to date on legislative changes, new methodologies and training opportunities.
3. Read the practice note
We appreciate that the practice note is around 130 pages long, which may seem quite daunting. However, as MLRO, with legislative responsibility for your firm’s compliance, it really is important that you read it through at least once to familiarise yourself with the material. We have tried to ensure that it is written in plain English and follows a very logical and practical format.
You will need to refer to the practice note on a regular basis, but the use of hyperlinks should make it easier to find the sections you actually need at the time. Make sure the link to the practice note is saved in your favourites folder in your internet browser or is linked from your intra-net.
4. Sign up to the introductory online courses
While you may have undertaken AML training before, as MLRO you will have new responsibilities and a wider range of decisions to make about the processes your firm will adopt.
The Law Society has developed two online courses specifically designed for MLROs and their deputies in law firms, to ensure you have a clear understanding of all the issues you will now need to deal with. The training is interactive, and involves practical scenarios against which you can test your understanding.
We also provide face to face training, for example the AMLIn Practice course, for which we assume that you have already undertaken the Introductory online modules. It is always best to build knowledge in stages so that you do not get information overload. For MLROs undertaking the introductory online courses in the autumn, we suggest waiting until the following spring to undertake the face to face sessions.
5. Keep the Practice Advice Service number within easy reach
The Law Society’s Practice Advice Service receives over 6000 calls a year from practitioners seeking assistance with AML compliance. They can help you navigate the practice note, consider practical ways to obtain client due diligence information or verify the source of funds in particular cases and review your reporting obligations.
They can be contacted on: 020 7320 5675 or by email at: email@example.com between 9am and 5pm on weekdays.
When emailing in queries, please remember to respect client confidentiality and refrain from providing the client’s actual names, bank account numbers, correspondence.
If there are particular issues you would like to see covered in future editions of this feature, or if you are a more experienced MLRO who is reading this and would like to share some of your thoughts about the things you wish someone had told you when you first became an MLRO – please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org