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The buck stops with management

Overall responsibility for compliance and business success lies with firm managers; ?they and the regulator should be doing more, argues Ian Muirhead

8 March 2016

Solicitors have traditionally regarded compliance as primarily a question of ethics, and compliance has therefore been a personal matter for individual practitioners, involving moral judgement as much as regulatory requirements. Indeed, the pop-up on the Handbook section of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) website still asks: ‘Do you have a question about ethics?’

Now, the greatest proportion of law firms are limited companies, and compliance is increasingly becoming a corporate issue. Hence the adoption by the SRA of the Code of Conduct based on the precedent of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) – now the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – and the requirement for firms to appoint compliance officers. But how many compliance officers for legal practice (COLPs) or finance and administration (COFAs) fully understand their roles?

Overarching responsibility

According to the SRA’s guidance notes, ...

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