As the holidays depart and we return to normality, the festive period usually provides a time for reflection and thought. So, as we celebrate this first anniversary for COLPs and COFAs, I guess there will be some additional thought going into what has passed by in 2013 and what challenges lie ahead as the new year unfolds.
Fittingly for the twelfth night after Christmas, we’ve put together our 12 New Year thoughts for a Compliance team’s potential resolutions:
- How do you rate with all of your outward facing documentation and information?
During 2103, we continued to find over 86% of Client Care Letters and Terms of Business documents falling short in compliance. Do yours properly reflect the Code of Conduct, especially Chapters 1, 7 and 8 – although the other chapters are equally as important, alongside your statutory & regulatory obligations like Distance Selling and Cancellation of Contracts.
- You’ve made it through the recent PII renewal process. Others have been less fortunate. Will it be any easier in 2014? How are your processes going to keep you safe for next time? Are they robust enough to stand any additional scrutiny should an insurer seek more tangible evidence? Are you prepared to volunteer this information to enable your broker to present you in a better light at 2014 renewal?
- Where are you with breaches of compliance? How good are your systems for catching potential material breaches early? Are you spotting minors, recording and reviewing regularly for any sequence, or patterns?
- Are your risk strategies and methodologies right for 2014? Have you identified all current risks? Do things need to change?
- As you take down the Christmas cards and perhaps draw up next year’s list, have you closed all the matters that are finished and cleared associated client accounts? Have the files been trawled for inactivity and all WIP is current and collectable?
- How has your Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery Plan been put to the test lately? As you’ll perhaps read in a forthcoming article next week, recent disaster recovery incidents have included:
• The deletion of all data on an internal data-server by an over-zealous staff member,
• An air-conditioning water leak in a server room that blew the server, and
• A dose of the Crypto virus!
Oh, and just to add to the fun, Microsoft withdraws its technical support and security patches (when your PC says “Installing Updates 1 of…”) in April for Windows XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003 – that may make you even more vulnerable!
- For those with permitted Referral Agreements, when was the last time they were reviewed?
- What are your File Reviews telling you? Are they robust enough to identify gaps in policy and process compliance?
- Have you got the right people on the bus for the journey ahead? Even if the Economy is improving, time will remain tough for a while longer. Reserves will still be tested. Dust down those training plans. Make CPD worthwhile and valuable to everyone – challenge others to share their learnings.
- What are your plans for 2014? Financial sustainability remains top of the list of concerns with the finger pointing to owners, partners and managers to ensure they understand the financial consequences of their actions.
- Have you reviewed those declined instructions registers recently and glimpsed the complaints register? What can you do better in 2014 to perhaps reduce the amount of work turned aside, or improve the client experience?
- And finally, if you haven’t taken Legal Eye up on our offer of a free mini health check – what’s stopping you? We might be just the external catalyst for change you need. And if you’ve not plucked up the courage to ask for our help yet – now is the time!
Benjamin Franklin once said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.”
Using Legal Eye, or our associates in Marketing Eye and Financial Eye will ensure compliance is top of your list in 2014 and that you optimise your performance. For as one commentator writing in the Law Society Gazette has already commented: “Many lawyers may feel the Solicitors Regulation Authority has been quite proactive enough in regulating them, but even with law firm failures to distract, it’s the regulator’s intention to become even more ‘active’.” Whilst this may be directed at in-house lawyers and the City, regulatory pressures will remain on firms irrespective of size, or discipline.
Sample our free mini-healthcheck on your Client Care Letter and Terms of Business and let us release some of your time in the year ahead for other celebrations!
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