One year on from the introduction of outcomes-focused regulation, SRA Executive Director Samantha Barrass spoke at the COLPs and COFAs conference in Holborn Bars today on the SRA’s view on firm-wide compliance and the benefits of proactive engagement and co-operation.
Whilst Ms Barrass emphasized that the majority of firms had embraced the new regime, she also sent a message that the SRA would take action against those who have failed to properly to cooperate.
The SRA is currently checking all nominations and has gone back to 150 randomly selected firms to take part in an exercise to test that the process which is based on self-declaration is actually working in practice. The test asks questions on the relevant qualification and level of seniority of the nominated officers and their support structures to establish whether the firm has taken taken its approach to nominating appropriate people seriously.
She also revealed how the SRA is planning to support compliance officers in their new roles through the publication of a risk index which will identify a full list of risks to meeting the SRA’s regulatory objectives, a risk framework showing how the SRA uses risk profiling to regulate in a proactive and constructive way and a Risk Outlook which is to be a guide on the SRA’s view of the risk landscape. She announced the publication of regular risk bulletins and ‘COLP/COFA alerts’. All of these would help establish a shared understanding between the SRA and firms on the SRA’s view of current and emerging risks, supporting firms’ identification and management of risk.
She reemphasized her point from her speech in April (see here) that compliance officers’ roles were a key part of outcomes-focused regulation, where clear responsibility for managing risks to the delivery of competent and ethical legal services was on firms themselves. She stressed that the COLP and COFA were not to be regarded as ?sacrificial lambs’ in that firms, and particularly senior managers, held the ultimate responsibility for creating a firm-wide culture of compliance.