The pressures on law firms have rarely been greater with a worldwide pandemic, economic storm clouds ahead and an increasing regulatory burden. Dean Grindle of JRS Consultants sets out how Lexcel can help firms navigate such difficult times.
With a hardened PII market, it is vital that a firm takes steps to manage their risk profile. Lexcel provides an excellent foundation for this. When working on proposal forms with our clients, Lexcel allowed them to clearly demonstrate to insurers that they had the policies, procedures and structures in place, to mitigate risk across the whole firm and across a whole range of scenarios, from cybercrime, money laundering, to supervision and risk management. It enables insurers to gain greater confidence that a firm has systems in place to deliver on quality. And because Lexcel is independently-assessed every year by a Law Society approved certification body, insurers know that the systems are being policed.
The regulatory burden has never been greater and firms face compliance challenges on multiple fronts. When firms craft their documented Lexcel systems, they shouldn’t simply aim to just meet Lexcel requirements, but also seek to embrace all the key obligations that firms face, whether it is AML, SRA Codes of Conduct, CQS, GDPR or LAA contract requirements. With that approach, firms can be confident that they have a single system that ticks all the boxes, providing greater confidence that there are no compliance gaps. Something not to understate, is that should a firm come into the crosshairs of a regulator, the Lexcel systems can help a firm mount an effective and robust defence against regulatory action. We have seen this on many occasions.
The uncertainty of the moment makes future planning difficult for sure. But it doesn’t negate the need for strategy development. In fact, it makes it even more necessary. Lexcel requires firms to develop a robust approach to strategic planning, setting objectives for the business, adapting to changes and exploiting opportunities that arise. It is very satisfying to see how firms develop through the acquisition of Lexcel, becoming more business-focused and more resilient. Furthermore, Lexcel’s requirement for firms to develop and test business continuity plans has never been more necessary than during the past two years!
Information security, cybercrime and GDPR compliance are key areas for firms. The requirements of Lexcel force firms to examine and continuously monitor their security measures and reduce the risk of a major disruption. With the trend towards remote working, it is vital that firms review their systems for security weaknesses, in addition to having the right HR policies in place for staff wellness. Data protection regulations are complex and the penalties for non-compliance can be punitive. With Lexcel, firms will develop policies that provide full GDPR compliance, ensuring that all staff members focus on the importance of data protection, reducing the likelihood of any breaches occurring.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Lexcel is its relentless focus on risk management. Law firms need to think strategically about risk. Are new regulations on the cards which could de-rail a firm’s best laid plans? Is a firm over-reliant on one area of law or one fee earner? Is the IT security up to the job? In addition, Lexcel forces fee earners to consider risk on every matter. Is this client a serial complainant? Could this matter go pear-shaped? These approaches, allied to sensible procedures, reduce the risk of firms suffering existential crises or excessive numbers of complaints, claims or a serious damage to the firm’s reputation.
There is no doubt that Lexcel brings discipline to a firm’s operations. It allows firms to develop the procedures and systems that they have always wanted in the knowledge that compliance will be regularly tested. Internal file reviews help police file management activities. Periodic management reviews help ensure that your procedures and policies are constantly challenged and improved. Finally, the annual Lexcel audits provide an extra incentive to get things right! With consistency comes the reassurance that clients will always receive a good standard of service.
Dean is a specialist law firm risk and compliance consultant at JRS Consultants specialising in SRA, Lexcel, CQS, GDPR and AML compliance.