Tuesday, May 21, 2013

COLP and COFA : Instruments creating a culture of compliance

All firms have their own distinct culture and way it does business. How a firm engages with its compliance obligations will be determined, in part, by its culture and the approach taken by its COLP and COFA . Over time certain approaches to compliance and assumptions as to what is required will become ingrained across the firm.

A positive culture of compliance within a law firm includes strategic vision and relates to larger strategic goals. It is:

• established by the COLP and COFA
• characterised by senior partners example
• embedded in activities such as targeted CPD training
• reinforced by incentive systems
• Punitive measures against  those violating the firm's compliance policy.
• integral to legal matter management systems and their use and management
• inseparable from the firms structure, processes, and management style

A positive culture of compliance also:

• addresses the risks that arise in each area of law that the firm practices
• establishes control points for the risk elements
• ensures controls are well documented for internal and external purposes
• identifies partners or managers responsible for managing each compliance element

Without a commitment to compliance, even the best policies and procedures will be useless.

As you build and maintain a culture of compliance, be sure to reward those alerting the COLP and COFA to potential problems at least as much as those who report only smooth sailing. Be sure that all fee earners and support staff realize that the firm will not accept the covering-up of problems, especially non-compliance. If the message from compliance officers is “Only good news, please,” then lawyers may seek to mask any problems – including noncompliance.

Be very suspicious if you never get bad news. As far as a COLP or COFA is concerned, no news is bad news !

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