Covid-19: compliance contingency planning
The Law Society has advised sole traders to partner up with another solicitor to protect clients in case they are unable to work due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The advice also suggests sole traders use an out of office response on emails to explain the latest situation to clients and who they need to contact in lieu of a response from their usual solicitor. “Clients should not be left in limbo expecting a response”, according to the trade body.
While most cases of Covid-19 will be quite mild, the disease is known to have serious health implications for a minority of those that contract it.
However, The Law Society has also published advice on contingency planning for the absence of compliance officers in anticipation of their being affected in some cases. This includes the compliance officer for legal practice (COLP) and the money laundering reporting officer (MLRO).
The Law Society recommends it is good practice to ensure that senior solicitors across firms are all appraised of critical information so that knowledge gaps do not emerge in the wake of individuals falling ill or being rendered otherwise unable to work.
“It may be useful to have an informal deputy, given that the compliance officer for legal practice (COLP) role is person specific and no formal deputies can be registered with the SRA”, it has advised.
“If you can, you should discuss with a colleague absence planning measures and nominate someone to fill in, maintain records and update the money laundering reporting officer (MLRO) or COLP on their return.”
In instances where an absence is likely to be prolonged and it is not possible for the assigned compliance officer to work remotely, then firms should apply to the SRA to replace the COLP.
When the original COLP returns, another application to return the function to the original post holder will be necessary.
Firms have 28 days to apply for an emergency COLP if the post holder is unavailable long term.