The outcomes-focused regulation (OFR) regime requires solicitors’ firms to appoint new compliance officers for finance and administration (COFA) and legal practice (COLP).
The COFA has the key responsibilities of ensuring all reasonable steps are taken to ensure the firm and its employees comply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) Accounts Rules and recording and reporting any non-compliance to the SRA
It makes sense for COFAs to be senior personnel, to enable cross-practice co-operation in implementing change and give them comprehensive access to financial information necessary to ensure compliance. However, diverting a fee earner to compliance issues can have a potentially significant impact on a practice, particular in smaller firms where the COFA is more likely to be a partner, member or director.
Although COFAs and COLPs cannot be external appointments, outsourcing COFA-related tasks is a common-sense solution to ensuring key responsibilities are taken care of, while the COFA concentrates on oversight of the overall compliance function.
At Howard Worth, our experience in legal practice financial management issues and detailed knowledge of the SRA Accounts Rules means we can provide expert support to COFAs.
We can guide legal practice clients at every stage, from defining and clarifying the role to implementing accounting systems to risk management and assessment.
- assessing accounting systems and controls to ensure they are fit for purpose and facilitate compliance with the Accounts Rules, including reviewing any past breaches identify issues and identifying corrective action
- monitoring and regularly reviewing accounting systems and controls to ensure they are working effectively
- providing training for current and future members of the practice team in the SRA Accounts Rules, including specific training, e.g. for fee earners in reading ledgers
- regularly reviewing client and office ledger balances and reviewing and analysing fee earners’ active files from a financial perspective
- monitoring and reviewing the firm’s financial stability
- assessing and reviewing risk management procedures and advising on opportunities to enhance firm-specific controls to minimise risk, e.g. of fraud and to safeguard assets.
For arrange a free, initial, no obligation meeting to discuss how Howard Worth in Nantwich, Northwich and Cheshire can assist with COFA requirements, please contact Andrew Hague.