Compliance Officers 2019—law firms
Compliance Officers 2019—law firms

The following Practice Compliance guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Compliance Officers 2019—law firms
  • Comparison to 2011 regime
  • Requirement to have compliance officers
  • Qualification and approval
  • Governance and reporting lines
  • COLP duties
  • COFA duties
  • Interaction with other support departments
  • Interaction with individuals’ and the firm’s reporting obligations
  • Liability for compliance breaches

This Practice Note provides guidance on the role and responsibility of compliance officers in law firms, ie the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA). It covers the regulatory obligations in relation to reporting compliance failures to the SRA, but there is a separate Practice Note providing more detailed guidance on reporting compliance failures—see: Breach reporting 2019—law firms.

Comparison to 2011 regime

For a comparison to the 2011 regime, see Practice Note: Compliance officers and breach reporting—SRA 2011 regime and SRA 2019 regime compared.

Requirement to have compliance officers

An authorised body must at all times have an individual who is designated as its COLP and an individual who is designated as its COFA, and whose designations the SRA has approved. An authorised body is:

  1. a recognised body (ie lawyer-owned firm)

  2. an alternative business structure (ABS), or

  3. a recognised sole practice

regulated by the SRA.

The primary legislation and SRA Standard and Regulations differ on the titles of the compliance officer roles, but this does not affect their substance. The Legal Services Act 2007 requires ABS firms to appoint a Head of Legal Practice (HOLP) and Head of Finance and Administration (HOFA), but there is no corresponding statutory requirement for non-ABS firms. The SRA has changed the titles from HOLP/HOFA to COLP/COFA, and