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A guide to completing your firm's COLP and COFA nomination

Last updated 1 August 2012

The deadline for all firms and recognised sole practitioners to nominate a COLP and a COFA was 31 July 2012. The deadline was set to allow enough time for us to review all nominations and complete the approval process by 31 December 2012. COLPs and COFAs must take up their responsibilities by 1 January 2013.

If you are an authorised signatory and have not yet completed the nomination process on behalf of your firm or practice, please do so at the earliest opportunity. If you have asked us for a fresh hyperlink to your online nomination form, we will send this to you as soon as possible. When you receive your new hyperlink, complete the form immediately.

Ultimately, failure to nominate and have an approved COLP and COFA is a serious matter, and could result in revocation of a firm's authorisation and the closure of the firm. But this is the most serious scenario, and is not an outcome that we want to result from this process, except as a last resort.

An overview of the process

The SRA Authorisation Rules and the SRA Practising Regulations require all firms authorised by the SRA to have an approved

  • compliance officer for legal practice (COLP), and
  • compliance officer for finance and administration (COFA).

On 31 May, we sent your firm's authorised signatory an email containing a customised link to a short online nomination form.

The authorised signatory will be asked to nominate the COLP and COFA on behalf of the firm (the authorised signatory may also nominate themselves for one or more of these roles).

There are three key parts to the nomination:

  • one for the authorised signatory to complete on behalf of the firm,
  • one for the COLP nominee, and
  • one for the COFA nominee.

Before starting to complete the nomination form, the authorised signatory must ensure the nominee(s) has/have consented to the nomination.

The authorised signatory must ensure that all parts of the nomination form (theirs and the COLP's and COFA's) are submitted to the SRA for approval by 31 July 2012.

We will notify the authorised signatory and the nominee(s) of our decision in writing between 1 August 2012 and 31 December 2012.

How to prepare to complete the nomination form

In preparation for completing the nomination form, the authorised signatory must ensure that the firm and the nominee(s) have read and understood the regulatory provisions in relation to COLPs and COFAs. These can be found in

If the firm or the nominee(s) have questions about these responsibilities, or if they wish to discuss compliance with the rules, they can contact our Professional ethics helpline.

What this means for the authorised signatory

The authorised signatory must nominate the COLP and COFA on behalf of the firm (they may nominate themselves for one or more of these roles). They are asked to provide the following information:

  • the COLP's and COFA's full name(s), i.e. forename(s) and surname,
  • their email address, which will then be used throughout this process, and
  • a statement about whether the nominees are lawyers and, if so, of what type.

In addition, the authorised signatory is asked to complete a declaration on behalf of the firm in relation to the firm's regulatory obligations and arrangements to ensure that the COLP and COFA are able to discharge their duties. Before starting to complete the nomination form, the recognised body and its managers, or the sole practitioner must ensure

  • that the firm has in place suitable arrangements to ensure that its COLP and COFA are able to discharge their duties (rule 8.5(a) of the SRA Authorisation Rules or regulation 4.8(a) of the SRA Practising Regulations);
  • that any obligations imposed on the firm, its managers, employees or interest holders, by the SRA's regulatory arrangements, and its statutory obligations in relation to the carrying on of authorised activities, are complied with (rule 8.1 of the SRA Authorisation Rules or regulation 4.7(a) of the SRA Practising Regulations;
  • that the firm has in place suitable arrangements for compliance (rule 8.2 of the SRA Authorisation Rules or regulation 4.7(b) of the SRA Practising Regulations);
  • that the firm has an individual who is the recognised sole practitioner, a manager of the recognised body or an employee to nominate (for approval by the SRA) as its COLP (rule 8.5 of the SRA Authorisation Rules or regulation 4.8 of the SRA Practising Regulations);
  • that the firm has an individual who is the recognised sole practitioner, a manager of the recognised body or an employee to nominate (for approval by the SRA) as its COFA (rule 8.5 of the SRA Authorisation Rules or regulation 4.8 of the SRA Practising Regulations).

Before making nominations, the authorised signatory must ensure the nominee(s) has/have provided their consent to the nomination. They should also discuss any concerns and/or issues regarding the nominee(s) suitability to be the firm's compliance officer(s). The SRA Suitability Test sets out the criteria that we will take into account. More about the Suitability Test

If the firm or the nominee(s) have questions about these responsibilities, or if they wish to discuss compliance with the rules, they should contact our Professional ethics helpline.

What happens next

If the authorised signatory nominates themselves for one or more of the roles, they are asked to provide some further information; this is set out below in What this means for the nominated compliance officers.

When the authorised signatory submits their part of the notification form,

  • we send them a confirmation email, and
  • if they have nominated another individual for one of more of the roles, we send the nominee(s) an email containing a customised hyperlink to their part of the online nomination form. This is sent to their email address as provided by the authorised signatory. If two individuals are nominated, one for each role, the COLP nominee must complete their part of the nomination form before we can provide a customised hyperlink to the COFA nominee.

Once the nominee(s) have submitted their part of the nomination form, the authorised signatory is sent a final confirmation email providing a summary of the information submitted by the nominee(s).

We will notify the authorised signatory and the nominee(s) of our decision in writing between 1 August 2012 and 31 December 2012.

Before making our decision, we may contact the authorised signatory or the nominee(s) for further information.

What this means for the nominated compliance officers

Once the authorised signatory has submitted their part of the nomination form, any other nominee(s) are sent an email containing a customised link to access their part of the online nomination form. This is sent to the email address provided by the authorised signatory. If two individuals are nominated, one for each role, the COLP nominee must complete their part of the nomination form before we can provide a customised hyperlink to the COFA nominee.

Before accessing the link, all nominee(s) must ensure they have a mySRA account. They are required to provide their ID as part of the nomination process.

The nominee(s) areasked to provide the following details.

If they are currently regulated by or registered with the SRA

  • Their SRA ID number (see mySRA accounts below)
  • Their date of birth
  • If they are a lawyer but not a solicitor, five years of home address information.

If they are not currently regulated by or registered with the SRA

  • Their mySRA ID registration number (see mySRA accounts below)
  • Their date of birth
  • Any former names
  • Their nationality
  • If they are a lawyer but not a solicitor, five years of home address information.
  • If they are regulated by another regulatory or professional body, registration details (name of body and registration number).

They are asked to complete a declaration confirming that

  • they have discussed with the firm any concerns or issues they have regarding their suitability as the firm's compliance officer (see the SRA Suitability Test below), and
  • they are satisfied they will be able to fully discharge their responsibilities as set out in rule 8.5(c) and 8.5(e) of the SRA Authorisation Rules or regulation 4.8(c) and 4.8(e) of the SRA Practising Regulations.

They are also asked to confirm whether they have ever been subject to or are currently facing any of the matters listed in sections 1, 3-6 and 10 of the SRA Suitability Test. More about the Suitability Test

mySRA accounts

The following individuals are regulated or registered with the SRA:

  • solicitors,
  • registered European lawyers,
  • registered foreign lawyers,
  • exempt European lawyers,
  • other lawyer managers,
  • non lawyer managers.

If a nominee is regulated by or registered with the SRA, they must activate a mySRA account, and must enter their SRA ID in the nomination form.

If a nominee is not regulated or registered with the SRA, they must register with mySRA and enter (in their nomination form) the mySRA ID number provided when they register with mySRA.

If a nominee has already activated their account or registered with mySRA previously, they do not need to repeat this process.

The SRA Suitability Test

All nominees need to read the criteria set out in parts 1 and 2 of the SRA Suitability Test. They are asked to declare if they have ever been subject to or are currently facing any of the matters listed in the following sections of the SRA Suitability Test:

  • Section 1: Criminal offences
  • Section 3: Behaviour not compatible with that expected of a prospective solicitor or authorised role holder
  • Section 4: Assessment offences
  • Section 5: Financial evidence
  • Section 6: Regulatory history
  • Section 10: Additional requirements

It is important to note that failure to disclose any matters will be treated as prima facie evidence of dishonest behaviour.

Nominees must disclose any matters that have occurred in the UK and/or overseas. Convictions and cautions which are "spent" under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 do not need to be disclosed.

They must have discussed any concerns and/or issues they have regarding their suitability with the firm before submitting their part of the nomination form.

What happens next

When the nominee(s) submit their part of the notification:

  • we send them a confirmation email, and
  • we send the firm's authorised signatory a final confirmation email. This contains a summary of the information provided by the nominee(s).

We will notify the authorised signatory and the nominee(s) of our decision in writing between 1 August 2012 and 31 December 2012.

Before making our decision we may contact the authorised signatory or the nominee(s) for further information.

What if I have any questions?

For help and information throughout the nomination process, please visit www.sra.org.uk/complianceofficers.

Other useful information includes the following:

If firms or nominees have questions about these responsibilities, or if they wish to discuss compliance with the rules, please contact our Professional ethics helpline.

If you have any questions about the process or about completing the nomination form, please contact our Contact Centre.

Questions and answers: COLP and COFA nomination process

Q: Why aren't you using mySRA for the nomination process?

We had four objectives for the nomination process:

  • to make it as straightforward as possible to fill in the forms and submit them,
  • to manage the risk that the individuals appointed are not competent or ethical, possibly unbeknownst to the firm,
  • to maximise the extent to which senior managers in firms and their nominee(s) actively engage in the importance of the exercise and think through their obligations under the regime,
  • consistent with our risk-based approach, to maximise the extent to which our checking of firms' judgement on this is confined to higher risk firms, and to minimise the extent to which we spend, time second-guessing decisions by firms that are capable of exercising good judgment.

We have also considered that this year "mass" nomination process is a one-off. Consequently, we have worked our way through various drafts and approaches and have arrived at one which we believe delivers on all four of our objectives.

Q: What security measures are in place to protect the data we provide?

Your data is stored and transferred securely. Our infrastructure adheres to industry best practices.

Q: Are there any special technical (IT) requirements for accessing the form?

No. The online nomination form works in all modern web browsers.

Q: Our authorised signatory hasn't received their email?

We sent emails to authorised signatories on 31 May. Please check your spam folders or quarantined emails before contacting us. If you are unable to trace the email, please contact us so that we can check the details on record for your authorised signatory.

Q: We have more than one authorised signatory. Who will you send the email to?

If a firm has registered more than one authorised signatory, for the purpose of completing this exercise we sent the email containing a customised link to the authorised signatory who most recently registered this role.

Q: We need to update our authorised signatory. Do we do this through mySRA?

For the purpose of completing this exercise, you can email us at complianceofficers@sra.org.uk with the following information:

  • firm name and SRA number,
  • name of the new authorised signatory and their SRA number,
  • email address for the new authorised signatory.

We will update your record and send a new customised link to the new authorised signatory. This is because the customised link is personalised and contains pre-populated information. You should not forward or distribute the link to anyone else.

Q: I have received an email. When I click on the link, nothing happens?

First check that you have opened your internet browser. If you already have your internet browser open, copy and paste the link directly into the address bar of your internet browser rather than clicking on the link.

Q: The form has been partially submitted but a mistake has been made. Do we need a new link?

Yes. If any part of the nomination form has been submitted, you will need to contact us to request a new link. This will mean that any part of the nomination form previously submitted will need to be completed again.

Q: Can the organisation contact complete the nomination form?

No. It must be completed by the firm's authorised signatory on behalf of the firm.

Q: Our authorised signatory has submitted their part of the nomination form but the nominee(s) have not received their email with their link. What do I do?

Please allow up to 24 hours for the email to arrive. You should also check your spam or quarantined emails. If you are still unable to trace it, please contact us as we may need to send you a new link.

Q: We have submitted incorrect information. How do we amend it?

Once any part of the nomination form has been submitted, you cannot amend the data that has been submitted. If this has occurred, you will need to contact us to request a new link. This will mean that any part of the nomination form previously submitted must be completed again.

Q: I have been nominated as the firm's compliance officer(s) and have received a link to complete my part of the nomination process. However, I have decided I no longer wish to take up this role. What do I do?

If the nominee(s) decide they no longer wish to take up the role, they should discuss this with the authorised signatory directly. If any part of the nomination has been submitted the authorised signatory will need to request a new link to the nomination form. This will mean that any part of the nomination form previously submitted will have to be completed again.

Q: What individuals are regulated by or registered with the SRA?

The following individuals are regulated or registered with the SRA:

  • solicitors,
  • registered European lawyers,
  • registered foreign lawyers,
  • exempt European lawyers,
  • other lawyer managers,
  • non lawyer managers.

Q: I have multiple nationalities. How do I provide you with this information?

You should enter the nationality that you consider to be your main nationality.