Book Review: Regulation, Compliance and Ethics in Law Firms

Regulation, Compliance and Ethics in Law Firms, Tracey Calvert (2nd edn, Globe Law and Business 2020), 249pp., paperback, ISBN: 9781787423787. Also available as an e-book (see further

This book considers regulatory compliance for law firms, although the short chapter on data protection is of more general relevance. The author is a lawyer and the director of a firm which provides regulatory compliance consultancy services to lawyers.

The content of this book is interesting and useful, but the structure is sometimes a little difficult to follow. There are discrete chapters on the Legal Ombudsman, anti-money laundering rules and remote working, all discussed with reference to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Rules, but the division of material between the other chapters is sometimes confusing and the chapter titles are not always helpful. The book is divided into four sections; Governance and risk management, Demonstrating regulatory compliance in practice, Compliance with legal obligations, and Compliance tools and resources, but there is a degree of overlap between these sections and between the chapters within them, and it is not always clear where particular material is to be found and whether all the material on a specific issue is in one place or divided between chapters.

The section on ‘Governance and risk management’ consists of a single chapter on ‘Effective law firm management’ which itself accounts for a quarter of the book and would have benefited from a more obvious structure. The subheadings are not listed in the Contents, and it is not always clear how the different subheadings relate to each other or how the chapter is developing. Nonetheless, it contains much useful content. It
discusses the SRA Rules in detail and includes extracts from the Rules, as well as some short case studies and practical insights from senior law firm managers. It also considers compliance officers and supervision. Tables and bullet point lists are used to highlight important questions or issues that firms need to consider, and the tables in particular provide explanations of the importance of these questions or issues, and the results which firms should seek to achieve when addressing them.

The section on ‘Demonstrating regulatory compliance in practice’ includes what at first sight is a surprisingly short chapter (2½ pages) on ‘What is ethics’, but this is supplemented by a further discussion of ethics in the chapter on ‘Adding the people and commercial perspective’. The chapter on ‘Essential behaviour’ covers the SRA Principles, Codes of Conduct, and Statement of Solicitor Competence and, like the first chapter, includes extracts from many of these, a case study, and several checklists of questions for firms to consider. The chapter on ‘Evidence of compliance’ focuses on relevant policies which a firm could adopt. The chapter on ‘Safe client inception processes’ considers compliance issues arising when opening a new client file, and the need to monitor the relationship. The chapters on ‘Compliance in the litigation arena’, and ‘The Legal Ombudsman’ do essentially what they say on the tin.

The section on ‘Compliance with legal obligations’ includes chapters on ‘Managing the money laundering risk’, and ‘Managing the risks of handling data’ which again do what their titles suggest, and a chapter providing ‘An overview of legal compliance’. This provides a very brief outline of some of the most relevant legislation, including legislation relating to lawyers such as the Solicitors Act 1974, and more generally applicable legislation such as the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 and the legislation governing data protection.

The section on ‘Compliance tools and resources’ includes, as might be expected, a chapter on ‘Resources’, but also chapters on chapters on ‘Be aware of recent changes’, ‘Remote working - compliance considerations’, and a ‘Conclusion’ to the book as a whole.

In summary, there are many useful nuggets of information and advice here for members of law firms and in particular managers, but some digging is required.

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