Helen Clayton discusses compliance
Over the years that I have advised the legal profession, it has faced, albeit not on its own, increasing compliance. It continues to do so and I can’t visualise a point in time when compliance will be a choice.
Whether it’s the regulator or quality marks or indeed, your own systems and rules, compliance is a vital part of running a law firm. Having said that, a law firm is also a business. If it’s not perceived as such, it’s likely to have failed by now.
A must do or else?
The point I am getting to is that compliance should not just be viewed as a ‘must do it or else’; it’s a great opportunity to make your business stronger. By stronger, this could be seen in terms of quality, resilience, enhanced client service, team development, profitability; the list could go on. It’s certainly a way to differentiate your firm and so I believe that getting compliance right is an opportunity. With an impending change to the Handbook and the Accounts Rules, this is a great time to think about how compliance can add value to your firm.
Any change makes it an easier time to do things differently. Introduction of the new handbook and rules could prompt, for example, a review of systems and controls. Such a review could lead to improved efficiency, more automation, less room for error, improved quality in reporting, fewer breaches; again, the list goes on.
In the main, most people don’t like change. Looking to review systems and controls at the same time can provide people with responsibility and accountability, which can be ultimately rewarded, which may help move them more quickly towards such change. Having a clear understanding of the why and how can move people out of that chaos and confusion stage of change and into a role with more clarity. This helps you to get to the desired outcome in a faster, more effective way and hopefully, with minimal disruption to your business.
Lead from the top
Adhering to the systems and controls in place to ensure that compliance is effective and of value to your firm must be delivered in a top down approach. The adage of the soon-to-retire partner who does things their own way cannot possibly be the right answer for the business. Others will deem this to be an acceptable way of working, will create their own workarounds and ultimately reduce the effectiveness of any control in place.
Right first time
It’s doubtful that any system or control to ensure compliance is effective will be appropriate forever. It’s therefore of utmost value to revisit ways of working to ensure that they remain of value and whether there are newer or different ways of working. I have seen technology transform some of my clients’ businesses and lives in recent years; using technology to your best advantage and understanding what its abilities are can lead to significant time and overhead savings; these savings can then be used for return to the owners of the business or indeed into future investment to keep you at the forefront. Again, an opportunity to differentiate your firm from others in what is an increasingly competitive profession.
I encourage you to look at compliance with a new pair of eyes. You might just discover that there are some easy wins to improve your firm’s financial and operational performance.