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COLP & COFA - The Legal Procurement Group

COLP & COFA


Defining the roles.

The roles of the Compliance Officers for Legal Practice (COLPs) and for Finance and Administration (COFAs) are an integral part of the move to outcomes-focused regulation and key to our aim that firms will take responsibility for managing risks to their delivery of legal services.

The COLP and COFA should be champions of risk management and compliance within a firm and will have responsibility for the firms systems and controls. They are responsible for ensuring processes are in place to enable the firm, its managers and employees and everyone and anyone who has any interest in the firm to comply with the Handbook requirements on them.

The type of systems needed are not prescribed as these will very much depend on what us appropriate for the type and size of the firm, it’s areas of risk, and the type of work and client base.

As a COLP or COFA you are not solely responsible for compliance with Handbook requirements. All individuals in the firm have a role to play in complying with the requirements of the Handbook. Ultimately compliance is the responsibility of the firm and its managers. However, the COLP And COFA have a key role in ensuring that suitable systems and controls are in place, in recording breaches, and in reporting material breaches to the SRA.


Responsibilities – COLPs

  • Ensure the authorised body, it’s managers and employees comply with all terms and conditions of its authorisation (expect and obligations imposed under SRA Accounts Rules);
  • Ensure the authorisation body complies with the relevant statutory obligations;
  • Record any failure to comply authorisation or statuary obligations and make such records available to the SRA;
  • Report any material failure (either taken on its own or as part of a pattern of failures) to the SRA as soon as reasonably practical. Licensed bodies (ABS firms) must, in accordance with the Legal Services Act 2007, also report non-material breaches.

Responsibilities – COFAs

  • Ensure that the authorised body, its employees and managers, comply with any obligations imposed under the SRA Accounts Rules.
  • Keep a record of any failure to comply and make this record available to the SRA
  • Report any material failure (either taken on its own or as part of a pattern of failures) to the SRA as soon as reasonably practical. Licensed bodies (ABS Firms) must, in accordance with the Legal Services Act 2007, also report non-material breaches.

The role for the COLP and COFA can be fulfilled by one person ad this may be appropriate in smaller practices.

However, those managing smaller practices should also remember that non-lawyers can take on the role of COFA. This provides practices with the greater flexibility over who they might appoint, although care should be taken to ensure that those appointed have the relevant experience and knowledge.

The SRA highlights that ‘what needs to be covered by a practice’s compliance plan will depend on factors such as the size and the nature of the practice, its work and it’s areas of risk.

Smaller practices should consider carefully where there are risks to compliance and how these can be mitigated. Systems and processes should be proportionate. Overly complex systems are often by-passed and can become ineffective.

The profession, whether that comes in the form of lost fee earning time, recruiting compliance specialists or getting external help and support.