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Do I have a duty to conduct checks when hiring commercial solicitors?
I am a partner in a medium-sized firm. We are recruiting two solicitors and a legal assistant for our commercial department. Do we have a duty to conduct checks on potential employees?
Regulation 21(1)(b) of the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017 states that where appropriate with regards to the size and nature of the business, law firms must screen relevant employees:
- before an appointment is made
- during the course of the employment
Law firms should, where appropriate, screen the employee's skills, knowledge, conduct and integrity.
It is up to you to assess whether your firm is of the size and nature that triggers this requirement and/or requirements 21(1)a and 21(1)c.
Section 3.4.2 of the anti-money laundering guidance for the legal sector details the factors you can take into account when conducting this assessment.
Screening could mean having regard to:
- a person’s qualifications
- any regulatory, professional and/or ethical obligations to which the person is subject
- checking a person’s references
A relevant employee is defined as someone whose work is relevant to the firm’s compliance with the Regulations or who is otherwise capable of contributing to:
- identification or mitigation of the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing to which the relevant person’s business is subject
- prevention or detection of money laundering and terrorist financing in relation to the relevant person’s business
Since September 2006, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has undertaken disclosure and barring service checks on all solicitors before admission to the Roll.
You may want to take this into account as part of your screening process.
For further information, see the anti-money laundering guidance for the legal sector or contact the Practice Advice Service.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.
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