How can we help members navigate risk and compliance challenges
One of our focus areas is influencing regulation rules and supporting the profession to comply. This is especially relevant as firms up and down the country face many challenges as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In this article, Rob Cummings, head of regulatory affairs and economic crime, outlines our plans to support the profession through these regulatory challenges over the year ahead and influence regulation policy.
As our working lives begin to settle into yet another new normal, supporting members to comply with regulatory requirements and ensuring as far as possible that those requirements are proportionate and reasonable is more important than ever.
From the recently launched solicitors qualifying examination (SQE) to changing anti-money laundering (AML) requirements – and everything in between – we’ve got our work cut out for us. As always, we’re focusing our efforts on supporting members on the most important challenges they face.
Our strategy is aimed at three distinct groups:
- small firms and sole practitioners
- large firms
- in-house lawyers
While some issues are universal, we recognise the challenges faced by each of these groups are different and will shape the support and resources we offer accordingly.
The other strand of our risk and compliance work will be influencing decisions on behalf of the profession and making sure solicitors’ voices are heard.
How we’re supporting all members
Some of the work we’ll be driving forward this year will support all members.
Firms and organisations are seeking a balance between providing face-to-face support to clients and allowing staff to attain a better work-life balance by working from home. We’ll support firms in the transition towards hybrid working as more and more people return to the office.
We’re making sure members understand the impact of the SQE – the new single assessment for all aspiring solicitors. We’re providing support and resources for aspiring solicitors and for law firms, explaining the new regulatory requirements and what to expect from this route to qualification.
In addition, we’ll focus on supporting members in complying with their anti-money laundering requirements. We know that small firms can find this challenging, and that it’s a strong focus of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) at the moment. Additionally, we’ll continue to offer member support and guidance on helping to secure professional indemnity insurance (PII) cover.
How we’ll tailor our support
Small and medium-sized firms, and sole practitioners
One of the biggest challenges faced by smaller firms and sole practitioners is ensuring they’re complying with the various regulations that bind them and understanding the risks associated with not doing so.
We’re planning a variety of activities, including webinars and member events, to support members who are sole practitioners or work in smaller firms.
- support members in understanding how to obtain the most competitively priced PII
- help with handling complaints with the Legal Ombudsman
- explore the use of digital comparison tools and quality indicators
- provide support on how to comply with their AML obligations
To help support our members from large firms, we'll be looking to provide more tailored support around the key issues they face, including:
- the recently introduced SQE
- how to effectively engage with the PII renewal process
- complying with their AML obligations
We recognise that in-house members face unique challenges, typically working within organisations where the majority of staff are not legal professionals.
We’ve planned activity specifically aimed at in-house members, including to:
- create and refresh ethics content targeted at in-house lawyers
- provide support and advice on in-house career progression, performance and management, and mental health
Providing support to our members on regulation is – and will remain – a key priority for us.
How we're influencing on behalf of the profession
In addition to the substantial member support we have planned, the other strand of our work focuses on influencing on behalf of the profession.
The SRA, the Legal Services Board (LSB) and government all have busy agendas planned for the year ahead, focusing on areas that will have a direct impact on our members’ practice.
To influence on behalf of the profession and ensure the profession has a strong voice, we will:
- influence the SRA’s forthcoming work on the future of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund
- influence the LSB’s and SRA’s plans on continuing competence
- influence the LSB’s work on customer engagement
- influence stakeholder policy development on unregulated providers
- lobby and influence strategy on the economic crime levy to maximise visibility of profession concerns
- influence the review on the Money Laundering Regulations