Jo Hodges, Sales and Marketing Director at Redbrick Solutions shared her thoughts with Today’s Conveyancer about the changing world of compliance.
Welcome to 2021, few will be sorry to say goodbye to 2020 and even fewer will have seen their 2015-2020 5-year plan play out. It is important, nonetheless, to learn from the events of last year and the global pandemic. The Solicitors Regulation Authority Chair, Anna Bradley, speaking at the SRA compliance conference in late November 2020 stated ‘I really hope people don’t wake up [at the end of the pandemic] and say ‘right we can go back to the old way now’. That would be a travesty – we have been through such a difficult time and we really need to bag the benefits we’ve achieved and frankly we need to keep the pace of change up.’ However, with this pace of change comes changing compliance issues. Compliance issues that will put even more pressure on overstretched compliance officers, especially if those officers have spent more time on fee earning work and less on compliance duties.
One way to try and overcome such changing compliance challenges is to keep an eye on the horizon. The annual SRA risk outlook is a great piece of work discussing possible issues and challenges for the coming year. Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented real challenges for all of us and how we work. While it will take some time for the implications to be fully understood, it is already clear that the pandemic has also exacerbated many of the wider, day-to-day risks faced by law firms and their clients. While none of us can predict exactly what 2021 will bring, we know that by considering likely risks, identifying where they may be vulnerable and planning accordingly, firms can take preventative action. Our Risk Outlook helps firms to do that and I would encourage everyone to read it and take any necessary action’. The SRA risk outlook 2020-21 covers areas of the market landscape 2020-21, anti-money laundering, client money, diversity in the profession, information and cyber security, integrity and ethics, meeting legal needs and standards of service.
As fast as technology changes so must compliance regulations and guidelines change in order to keep up. To this end, The Conveyancing Association has launched a revised fifth version of its Cyberfraud and Fraud Protocol which provides conveyancing firms with practical information on how criminals operate and the measures they, and their staff, can take to avoid being victims of fraud and cyber-crime. The protocol covers vishing, phishing and spear phishing, whaling and smishing amongst others. Most of these terms would have been unheard of 5 years ago and will in the future be joined by numerous new terms as criminals come up with new ways to exploit technology. As the pace of technological advance increases so does the need for us to keep ahead of those who would exploit it.
Another way of ensuring that your firm is up-to-date with compliance issue to look to experts in the field. Risk and compliance consultancy Legal Eye has an online resource centre for law firms. The hub provides a comprehensive bank of resources to help COLPs, COFAs, partners, directors and managers manage risk. It includes precedent policy and procedure documents and templates, access to online training on a range of risk and compliance topics, and a range of useful materials such as ‘how to’ guides, short videos and articles. In addition The Legal Eye Quality standard scheme has been developed out of the requirement for businesses to be able to satisfy potential customers, insurers and staff that the running of the business is taken seriously and they will have the highest standards in compliance. Legal Eye Quality Standard firms may benefit through controlling Professional Indemnity Insurance premiums by way of visibly evident, robust and documented risk management processes. Redbrick Solutions are delighted to have achieved the highly desirable Legal Eye Quality Standard following an intensive assessment process and have held it since 2014.
To keep up with compliance and technology it makes sense to refer to the experts in compliance but also the experts in conveyancing case management solutions. With Redbrick Solutions Case Management complete audit trails provide a comprehensive record of all actions taken on the file, whilst the removal of repetitive data entry minimises the risk of errors in re-keying information. Conflict checks, automated compliance reports, escalation protocols, AML alerts, integrated SDLT submissions, secure document portal and prompts for checking monies on account all make matters less likely to result in an error.
In conclusion, 2020 has taught us many things, of which, few of us could have predicted, never the less, I can predict with some certainty that compliance in 5 years’ time will involve more regulation and more technology, however, it is through technology that the burden of compliance can be moderated.