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COLP’s & COFA’s: Compliance Update

9th August 2013

In a recent thematic review, undertaken by the SRA , conveyancing came under much scrutiny as the 2011/12 data from the Legal Ombudsman showed that it generated the second highest number of complaints, behind family law, and PI insurers indicate that conveyancing claims represented around 50% of the value of claims arising against firms.

These statistics bring into sharp focus the role of the COLP and COFA, whose responsibility it is to ensure that firms have appropriate systems, procedures and controls in place to enable it, and its managers and employees, to comply with their regulatory and statutory obligations. In addition to increased regulation, kitemarks such as Lexcel and the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) bring with them an onus on COLP’s to ensure that there are robust systems in place to manage and deal with risk, compliance, client care, conflicts of interest, referrals, internal audits, file reviews… the list goes on. This is before consideration is given to wider firm concerns such as business continuity, disaster recovery and data security.

The value of kitemarks such as CQS is increasing as its profile rises on the high street amongst consumers. The larger lending panels, most recently Santander, now require CQS as a pre-requisite for panel membership. The pressure on firms to seek accreditation grows, and with it the requirement for COLP’s to ensure that proper process and procedure, as required by the scheme, is established, documented and followed. With a twofold increase in Desk Top Reviews in 2013 the CQS is clamping down on the “tick-box” mentality, requiring firms to genuinely engage with the requirements of the scheme, putting COLP’s squarely in the firing line. How might your COLP respond to the following:

How you have adapted your procedures to take account of the Protocol – what are you doing differently and why? If not, please explain why not.

What processes do you employ to ensure that all matters handled by your Practice comply with the Protocol?

Case management and workflow systems have eased the pressure on the process driven conveyancing case, with the additional benefit to COLP’s of driving both compliant procedures and efficiencies and creating audit trails for review. So what do you do when it comes to third party relationships…? Having gone to all the effort of ensuring the firm has a compliant workflow in place do you fall down when it comes to third party procurement? Do your suppliers enable you to act in the best interest of your client? Do they offer additional risk management features and benefits? Do they provide a simple and efficient way of interacting with them? Can you track and audit such interactions? Can they be contacted when it matters to you, not at their convenience? Put simply, do they enable you to better comply with your regulatory obligations… are they a “value-add” provider?

The ETSOS platform supports compliance with key risk management protocols and procedures under the code of conduct, outcomes focused regulation and the Lexcel and CQS kitemarks. As the country’s leading online search supermarket and property service shop the range of suppliers and choice of products offers users complete independence, giving their clients the ability to make an informed decision; truly enabling firms to provide a proper standard of service and act in the best interests of their clients. To better support firms in their risk management responsibilities the in-built Hazard Checker highlights potential hazards affecting a property (flooding, subsidence, coal mining, radon, fracking, HS2 etc), anti-money laundering reports fulfil responsibilities under the Anti Money Laundering Regulations 2007, and “LawyerChecker” is a service designed to reduce uncertainty in the identity of the vendor conveyance. The online interface and full archiving creates a robust audit trail and compliance for firm’s business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

So… for an easy way to demonstrate regulatory compliance, improve efficiencies, improve client care and reduce your risk look no further than ETSOS. For more information please contact David Opie on 01524 220001, email him at davidopie@etsos.co.uk, or sign up on the form below for your *FREE* trial.

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