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2012 - A Year in the life of Management & Compliance Consultants

 2012 - A Year in the life of Management & Compliance Consultants

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, we at cpm21 thought we'd pause for a moment and reflect on 2012 and its various milestones. We'd have to say this has been one of our busiest years as we have supported legal practices through the many challenges and trials they have faced in these turbulent times.

It all began for our clients with the late issue of the practicing certificates and the debacle with the whole "MySRA" process which overran the target dates set by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This had a knock on effect to the implementation of the Outcomes Focused Regulation (OFR) they introduced in October 2011. The SRA had optimistically planned to have new "Compliance Officers" in place by the summer of 2012 so that they could introduce their self-policing regulatory regime into practices.

This did not happen. Instead, firms were given until the 31st of July 2012 to nominate their Compliance officers, known as "COLPs and COFAs" with the SRA announcing they would be authorised by January 1st 2013.

Our response was to develop training courses for Compliance Officers, in particular "the Definitive COLP," and a COFA course. We have delivered these courses to just short of 100 Compliance Officers, and have more planned. The Definitive COLP course was supported by practical examples and a comprehensive set of precedents which we're pleased to say were introduced for our clients before any other training provider. To go with this, we have developed a set of services to support COLPS, such as our free COLPASSIST Email Service, OFR & Quality Standards training and Compliance Plan preparation support which we are sure will go a long way to making the burden of this difficult position easier in 2013.

COLP Training & Services - What our clients say;

"The course is refreshingly practical and delivered very well.  I felt it prepared me to face the challenge of the role of COLP in 2013," David Sangster Partner and Head of Compliance and Client Care - QualitySolicitors Redkite

"As with all cpm21 services in our experience, this was second to none. The COLP support and guidance given has helped me to develop a robust compliance plan to help the firm satisfy OFR and allow me to fulfil my duties as a COLP," Geraint Davies, Partner and COLP

"cpm21 provided a very informative and interesting COLP course out of a laborious subject matter, and the course materials were excellent," Juliet Phillips-James, Director and COLP, Gomer Williams & Company Limited

Another milestone was the Legal Services Commission's decision to allow firms with a Legal Aid Franchise to be audited against the Law Society's Lexcel standard as an alternative to their own quality standard, the Specialist Quality Mark (SQM). Of course, it wasn't quite that simple; the Lexcel office insisted that firms wanting to do this had to be assessed by certain dates which meant that the time to become "Lexcel ready" was minimised. We helped several firms respond to this, while helping others who were already Lexcel accredited to comply with the latest version of the standard, version 5. Ultimately this led to cpm21 supporting close to 40 different firms with their Lexcel needs and under quite tight time constraints in some cases.

Of course, we didn't ignore those firms that wanted to proceed with an SQM audit, as they were fully supported in their preparation for audits.

In the case of both Lexcel and SQM, where a firm had been awarded a franchise based on them complying with the relevant standard, we're pleased to say we had a 100% success rate, as we have with all of our clients.

Lexcel and SQM Services - What our clients say;

"CPM21's help was invaluable in helping us to achieve Lexcel accreditation earlier this year. They provided is with extremely useful guidance and support throughout the entire process" Andrea Thomas, Partner and Risk Manager, MLM Cartwright Solicitors

"The support provided to our firm by cpm21 for our Lexcel Assessment was second to none. I will be ensuring that they are by our side for all future audits," Juliet Phillips-James, Director and COLP, Gomer Williams and Company Limited.

"cpm21's SQM support was fantastic. Their advisors provided specialist support and gave us reassurance and confidence to head into an audit." Andrea Williams, Partner, Family Department, T R Harris Arnold Solicitors

Another problem for lots of legal firms this year was the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS). This scheme has taken on far more importance as firms with Conveyancers or Conveyancing departments have been forced to join up due to the lenders panels confirming they would stop working with firms who are not members of the scheme. To support this, cpm21 assisted firms with their application, particularly with the "Core Practice Management Standards" that the scheme stipulates. With the announcement and commencement of audits for the scheme, we have also developed a "pre-CQS audit" service where we will identify any issues where a firm may not be demonstrating compliance, and in January 2013 we will be running a "How to Survive a CQS Audit" 3 CPD hour course.

Around October time 2012, the SRA announced that 100 firms would be randomly chosen for an Equality & Diversity survey, and also that there was an intention to "roll out" this to other firms. To help firms deal with this, we developed and delivered a unique, up to date training course on Equality and Diversity which features the requirements from the 2010 Equality Act, as well as practical exercises.

Equality & Diversity Training - What our clients say;

"In today's climate, it is essential that all staff are properly trained in Equality & Diversity. This course perfectly fitted our requirements and was pitched just right be the cpm21 trainer," Tim Hartland, Partner, COLP and COFA, Clarke & Hartland Solicitors

Our list of services in this article is not exhaustive, and there are too many to fit on a summary, but the one that we'd like to finish on is our Strategic Planning "Strategy Deployment" service, which is a combination of training and advice. This service is where we work with the senior management team in a firm and prepare and support plans for the future of the firm and to support their aspirations. In these difficult and uncertain times, the take up of this service has grown significantly, and we see this as increasingly important for the future.

Strategic Planning Services - What our clients say;

"Many thanks to the Team at cpm21 for your help in producing our strategic business plan.  We look forward to working with you again in the future," James Lynch, Partner, Martyn Prowel Solicitors

 "As a firm we are extremely grateful for the assistance and guidance cpm21 have provided us with in respect of our business planning. The firm continues to grow positively as a result of their input," Juliet Phillips-James, Director and COLP, Gomer Williams and Company Limited

So, as we said at the beginning of this article, it has certainly been a challenging year. After training over 400 Partners, Fee Earners and Support staff on over 60 CPD training courses and providing advice and support in over 100 firms, it has certainly been busy.

2013 looks set to be equally challenging, with more changes on the horizon threatening the legal profession.

But rest assured, cpm21 will be there to support you.

Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.