Legal file auditing is a key part of compliance and never has this been more important than under outcomes-focused regulation; the vague and subjective nature of the mandatory Principles and Outcomes means that it is up to legal businesses to show that they are achieving them. Regular, defined, objective and independent audits are one of the clearest ways to show this. It is highly likely that audit results and analysis will form part of the COLP and COFA’s annual declaration.
A well-defined and planned legal file auditing process can be a huge help to the COLP and COFA in their roles as this will help inform and develop their compliance plan.
Although file auditing plays a large role in the audit process, remember that the Code of Conduct also requires a number of processes and systems, adherence to which cannot always be evidenced by file audits, for example, equality and diversity. So as well as file audits, there needs to be regular audits to ensure that all of these processes are working effectively and achieving the Outcomes.
So whether you run your audits internally or outsource these (see our blog on the pros and cons of each – File Auditing In or Out?), you need a clear and defined strategy and plan and Beyond Compliance can help with all aspects.
What does it involve?
- Option 1 – Outsourcing
You can outsource your file and compliance auditing completely to us and we can either do this on site, off site or even virtually. We will work with you to develop an audit strategy and programme as the criteria and frequency will depend upon your business’s specific circumstances.
You will receive a regular report tailored to your requirements which allows you to monitor compliance at a variety of levels – whether that be by fee earner, department or firm-wide. If required, the audits and reports can serve a dual purpose as they can also be adapted to measure performance management against your own or clients’ KPIs.
- Option 2 – Internal audits
Objective and consistent auditing is a difficult task to achieve as an existing fee earner – take it from someone who learnt this the hard way! However, in order to be effective, objectivity has to be a priority of auditing; it also helps to avoid motivation issues in fee earners being audited.
We can help to establish objective audit criteria and train and coach individuals to carry out your internal audits on a CPD accredited basis. One of the benefits of this is that staff become more familiar with the regulatory requirements which increases understanding, and therefore motivation as well as providing evidence to the SRA that the Code of Conduct is being taken seriously right across the business.
- Option 3 – Combination
We can develop a strategy and programme for you which gives you the benefits of regular internal audit including the knowledge and training and combine this with periodic independent audits providing the assurance of a check and balance on your own systems and compliance.
Given that each business will have different audit requirements, it’s not possible to put a cost on it but once the parameters of the project are agreed, a fixed fee will be set. And we guarantee that it will be more cost effective than your hourly rate if you were to do it yourself!
Just think, if you were to spend 10 fee earning hours each month on auditing and your average hourly rate is £175.00 per hour this equates to £1,750.00 per month.
A firm with 7 fee-earners working across 3 different disciplines wanted their fee earners and management team to focus on their core activities rather than auditing. We carry out quarterly audits of each fee earner covering 3 files each chosen to selection criteria agreed with the client.
There has been a noticeable improvement in compliance and KPI results over the 12 months since the programme of audits started. The client receives a quarterly report and feedback session which is tailored to their needs.
The client said:
The audit programme undertaken by Beyond Compliance has been invaluable to us in moving into OFR and has helped me as COLP and COFA to transition into my new roles. Despite us thinking that the audits could have been de-motivating, the feedback sessions to the teams have been very positive and our fee earners have developed a good understanding of compliance issues.