Sunday, June 2, 2013

Core characteristics of the best COLPs

If there was one word to describe “frame of mind” of most COLPs today, it would be “uncertain”.  The introduction of OFR and the new SRA handbook has left the legal industry in a rather confused state. Firms are now being forced to interpret rules and hope that they’ve got it right. I hear it every day in conversation with clients and prospects alike.

Once the dust settles in a couple of years time the answer will likely change to ‘overwhelmed’. If the regulators landscape proves to be similar the financial services industry COLPs will be overwhelmed simply by the pace of change.  

I am very fortunate to have worked with with some of the UK’s most effective compliance experts in the legal sector.  These experts have “walked the plank” and really understand what it takes to effectively manage compliance in a law firm.  They have pointed to several common characteristics that enable a COLP to avoid being “overwhelmed” and manage today's complexity with confidence.  These common characteristics include:

  1. Defining the firm’s compliance priorities: Here the COLP invests in determining what success looks like. They consider the firm’s “real” compliance risk and determine what they can, and more importantly, cannot do. They focus on this abbreviated list of priorities.
  2. Proactively set their personal targets: Some stress is inevitable, but the most successful COLPs understand that too much stress is counter-productive. They try to maintain balance in the midst of all this chaos.
  3. Focusing on priorities : The most effective COLPs focus on the previously defined priorities, not on everything. All areas of compliance can be addressed over time, but not all at once. The SRA don't expect you to get everything covered day one as long as you can show what your intentions are. It is easy to be overwhelmed when you look beyond the top priorities and you allow the peripheral issues to haunt you.
  4. Delegation and use of resources: The most productive COLPs really understand the art of delegation and how to utilise the skills of other members of the firm. Outsourcing as a form of delegation and understand that outsourcing non-core competencies are critical. They think through what can and should be delegated or outsourced to others, both inside and outside the firm. Again, good COLPs focus on their core competencies and effectively leverage the experience and expertise of others.

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