What is a COLP and COFA?
Last updated 13 May 2013
The roles of Compliance Officers for Legal Practice (COLPs) and for Finance and Administration (COFAs) are an integral part of our move to outcomes-focused regulation and key to our aim that firms will take responsibility for managing risks to their delivery of legal services. The COLP and COFA should be champions of risk management and compliance within a firm, and will have responsibility for the firm's systems and controls. They are responsible for ensuring processes are in place to enable the firm, its managers and employees and anyone who has any interest in the firm to comply with Handbook requirements on them.
The type of systems needed are not prescribed as these will very much depend on what is appropriate for the type and size of the firm, its areas of risk, and the type of work and client base.
As a COLP or COFA you are not solely responsible for compliance with Handbook requirements. All individuals in the firm have a role to play in complying with the requirements of the Handbook. Ultimately compliance is the responsibility of the firm and its managers. However, the COLP and COFA have a key role in ensuring that suitable systems and controls are in place, in recording breaches, and in reporting material breaches to the SRA.
The designated COLP or COFA must:
- be an individual;
- be a manager or an employee of the authorised body (or be an approved COLP and/or COFA (as appropriate) in a related authorised body);
- consent to their designation as the COLP and/or COFA;
- be of sufficient seniority and responsibility to fulfil the role;
- not be disqualified from being a Head of Legal Practice (HOLP) or Head of Finance and Administration (HOFA) - as appropriate;
- in the case of a COLP, be a lawyer of England and Wales, a Registered European Lawyer, or is registered with the Bar Standards Board under Regulation 17 of the European Communities (Lawyer's Practice) Regulations (2000), and an authorised person in relation to one or more of the reserved legal activities which the body is authorised to carry on.
Individuals who are COLPs and COFAs must also be fit and proper to undertake the role/s. This is assessed by taking into account the criteria in the SRA Suitability Test 2011 and any other relevant information. The assessment as to whether you are fit and proper is undertaken upon initial approval, and should also be considered by the firm throughout the currency of the approval. If you are no longer fit and proper, we may withdraw approval for your role.