How to make compliance work for you
Compliance is often perceived as a cross to bear, but putting procedures in place to manage risk and engaging with employees can lessen the burden, says Victoria Simpson
Many firms have changed the structure of their business support, showing that there is a significant shift away from the misconception of ‘fee burners’ and ‘fee earners’. Firms are becoming proactive to ensure that compliance is embedded into the culture
of the firm, with employees knowing and understanding the beliefs and values of the firm they are working for.
In reality, the question to
be asked of individuals, teams, management committees, and firms overall is: can you afford not to be compliant? The simple answer to this quite clearly is
no. While you may think your firm is off the regulatory radar, unfortunately no firm can afford to be caught off guard. It could be the smallest of things which puts you right under the spotlight. Sometimes, dare I say it, a firm is only as good as its worst employee and it could
be that very employee who is
Compliance is an essential element for firms to remain
safe and to succeed. It is not about how many accreditations you have, although working within the guidelines of those accreditations obviously minimises the firm’s risk exposure. All firms need to work within a structure that creates a safe environment and adheres to the requirements of the regulators, the accreditation bodies, the lender panels, the insurers, and so on.
It is about best practice, putting processes into place and reviewing all the elements of your business. Policies should be continually considered
and reviewed, including structure and strategy,
financial management, information management, people management, risk management, client care,
and file management.
Engagement with employees, communication of the firm’s vision, and management of expectations and how the firm is going to work to achieve the shared vision are key.
It’s all well and good giving your fee earners targets, but are they achievable and are you ensuring they can do this in a safe environment? Do you have a risk matrix in place to ensure that you are supervising your employees? Are you conducting file audits? It may be that there are trends which give rise to training issues. There are many signs that could show there is an issue with an employee, or equally that an individual has further capacity or partnership potential.
Ethics is a crucial part of compliance. The firm and
all its employees have a legal obligation to act with integrity and chapter 7 of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct is very clear on the regulatory obligations. By having effective processes
and controls in place you are minimising the risks that you are exposed to. Let’s face it: there is not a day which goes
by without hearing about cases involving attempted fraud, solicitors being struck off,
or firms being intervened.
Make sure that is not you.
Are you implementing processes to ensure that if you did face an inspection by the regulators, you have a full
audit trail and can back up what you say you do? Do you have up-to-date policies, procedures, and manuals which provide a resource to your employees?
Your employees are your best marketing tool: invest in them, engage with them, value them, and empower them.
Compliance is not about being Big Brother or using the word ‘compliance’ as a stick to beat people with when they have done something incorrect. Compliance is there to be used as a tool to engender a positive outlook by engaging with and investing in the employees who form your firm, which will in turn lead to its success. It must be led from the top down and
it must be a daily part of our professional lives so that it is embedded and becomes second nature.
Compliant organisation will see an improvement in client care and efficiency, leading to fewer complaints, fee income that is increased by having processes in place, and consistency of core standards across the board.
Embracing all aspects of compliance and building
your road map to a successful and safe future is key. Keep foundations solid, and build
and expand with an engaged, trusted, and proactive employment base. Continue
to train and retain, embedding the culture, beliefs, and values of your firm.In doing so, you will attract the employees you want, retain the employees who make your firm work, constantly review your processes, and keep your environment safe. Ultimately, compliance can be as simple
or as complex as you want
to make it, but without a structured framework it could be the downfall of any firm.