Auditing is a key part of compliance and never has this been more important than with the drive towards self-regulation; the vague and subjective nature of most regulatory requirements means that it is up to legal businesses to show that they are achieving the requirements. Regular, defined, objective and independent audits are one of the clearest ways to show this. Such audit results and analysis can provide a good basis for the COLP and COFA’s annual declaration.
A well-defined and planned audit process can be a huge help to the COLP and COFA in their roles as this will help inform and develop their compliance plan and is also a great way to develop a continuous improvement approach to risk management.
Although the auditing of files and legal work plays a large role in the audit process, remember that regulations also require a number of processes and procedures, 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 compliantly.
Whether you run your audits internally or outsource these (see our blog on the pros and cons of each), you need a clear and defined strategy and plan; 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 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 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 motivational 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. 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 your regulator that the regulations are being taken seriously right across the business. This also increases the competence of your people in line with regulatory requirements.
- Option 3 – Combination
We can develop a strategy and programme for you which gives you the benefits of regular internal audits 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 standard cost on this 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!
If you were to spend 10 hours each month on auditing and your fee earner’s 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; 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 which is tailored to their needs.
The client said:
The audit programme undertaken by Beyond Compliance has been invaluable to us in maintaining compliance and has helped me as COLP and COFA to keep a careful eye on fee earner compliance as well as keeping on top of my other duties and fee fee-earning. Despite us thinking that the audits could have been de-motivating, the feedback to the teams has been very positive and our fee earners have developed a good understanding of compliance issues as well as an opportunity for them to become involved directly in the continuous improvement process.