Some of you may have attended our annual Risk and Compliance conference in London last month but, in case you missed it, we had almost 300 delegates on the day with a packed programme covering AML, price transparency, SRA Handbook changes, GDPR, as well as ethics, cybersecurity, PI insurance, the accounts rules and Brexit.
It was good to see a lot of familiar faces and to welcome some new ones.
If you did attend, we hope you found the day insightful and that it reinforced your knowledge on achieving best practice in compliance.
If you didn’t make it, don’t despair - due to high demand and popularity, we will be hosting another event in Bristol on 12 September.
To avoid disappointment, we recommend you book your places well in advance.
So, just to round up some highlights of the day, it kicked off with a keynote address delivered by Robert Bourns, chairman of the Board of the Law Society.
SRA Standards and Regulations
Robert highlighted some of the Law Society’s concerns around the SRA’s forthcoming Standards and Regulations and, despite reservations, conceded that there may be opportunities for some sections of the profession.
He highlighted concerns that consumers will be unaware of the regulatory status of their legal services provider, a point that the Law Society has been making for some time.
His remarks were followed up by a presentation from Chris Handford, director of regulatory policy at the SRA, who outlined the SRA’s priorities emphasising a cultural shift of less prescriptive rules and more operational flexibility in how solicitors work.
Although he didn’t announce the date at conference, we now know that the implementation date for the new Standards and Regulations have been put back from April to the 25 November 2019.
This should give solicitors the scope to get up to speed with the changes.
Within that time frame we can also expect to see additional materials from the SRA including:
- research reports, and
- an ethics helpline.
We will be ramping up our offering as well with forthcoming articles, podcasts and webinars to keep you up to date.
Next up was Iain Miller, partner at Kingsley Napley, giving us an overview of how price transparency is going for firms and what changes were likely in the future.
Iain shared some amusing examples from anonymised firm websites where the range of pricing was so wide that the essential message was, pretty much, ‘if you have to ask you can’t afford us’.
He did say that although the SRA went out of their way not to be too prescriptive, we can nevertheless expect ‘web sweeps’ by the regulator - most likely of those firms found to have taken no steps to comply - who may be in line for more serious sanctions such as a rebuke or a fine.
We can also expect that more service areas will be added to the rules in 2020.
Accounts Rules and the COFA
The last morning session was a panel event of the often overlooked but still extremely important changes to the Accounts Rules.
This area of compliance can be a bit of a ‘geekfest’ but the key lessons from all three speakers centred around holding client money and the dangers of using client accounts as a banking facility.
When the new regulations are implemented, the Accounts Rules will be much less proscriptive, and firms need to start working out a strategy for record keeping and systems within the new framework.
During our lunch break, we had an added treat with Francis Dingwall of Legal Risk LLP gave us a short but entertaining seminar, ‘Well-being: How Wordsworth cures “lawyer brain”, or why lawyers benefit from imaginative thought’.
In the afternoon we broke up into three breakout sessions covering the following:
Robert Bond, partner at Bristows, took us through the GDPR and gave us some useful top tips on data security and destruction along with a useful discussion on both breaches and Brexit.
Amasis Saba, chair of the Money Laundering Task Force, outlined the current initiatives by the SRA and the government to tackle money laundering and provided some practical guidance on customer due diligence and reporting.
This session was chaired by the always entertaining Peter Wright, who gave us some practical insights into dealing with some of the things that keep most compliance managers up at night.
In the final session of the day we had a ‘mop up’ session of hot topics with Iain Miller of Kingsley Napley discussing how Brexit will likely restrict practice rights for both EU and UK lawyers.
We were also briefed on the current position with professional indemnity insurance.
Susanna Healey, partner at RadcliffesLeBrasseur, expects the SRA to report on the consultation on the matter later this year as the new PII rules are currently with the LSB for approval.
Finally, Francis Dingwall of Legal Risk discussed the prevalence of stress within the profession giving us the rather alarming statistic that almost 20% of solicitors reported suffering ‘extreme’ stress over the past year.