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If you are a sole practitioner or partner in a small practice located in one building or office, you may have a good handle on all the files within your practice. However, in our experience, levels of compliance can vary considerably, particularly where the practice is spread across more than one branch office and even just where it is spread across different floors in a building.
The most conscientious of solicitors can also find that pressing client or registration deadlines, staff issues or managing client relationships take priority over seemingly more trivial compliance tasks - even if regulatory compliance ranks highly on their list of personal concerns.
The information which the File Reviews will highlight
File reviews are an extremely good barometer of levels of compliance and risk exposure across your practice and an invaluable weapon in your risk management armoury. They can identify all sorts of issues, ranging from serious regulatory breaches to failures to meet best practice recommendations or comply with your own office manual procedures, whether on a one-off and a systemic basis. Examples include failure to provide the client with complete client retainer documentation, with the best possible information about the likely overall costs or with complaints information at appropriate times. They will also highlight any failures to comply with specified service levels, to carry out conflict searches or to comply with key dates or undertakings requirements.
What the File Review service involves
LBS Legal’s File Review service involves your sending files to LBS Legal (obviously using a reputable courier). LBS Legal’s auditors will review them, generally within 2 working days, depending on the number of files, and then return the files to you. After each batch of file reviews, we will provide you with a brief report, highlighting any trends and any corrective action required. Alternatively, our trained auditors can attend your offices and conduct the File Review in person, although this is less cost-effective than the remote option.
At the end of the File Review, and regardless of whether the remote or in person option is selected, we will provide you with a final report, consolidating all trends and highlighting the need for any specific urgent action on particular files, as well as any training, documentary or procedural recommendations.
Whether file reviews are mandatory under the SRA Handbook
There is no direct reference to carrying out file reviews in the SRA Handbook (although it is a different matter if you are Lexcel accredited - see below), but one of its overarching principles is that you provide a proper standard of service to your clients (Principle 5).
Chapter 7 of the Handbook also includes mandatory obligations relating to management and supervision of your practice, including the requirement that you have ‘effective systems and controls in place to achieve and comply with’ all requirements in the Handbook (Outcome (7.2)) and that you ‘identify, monitor and manage risks to compliance … and take steps to address issues identified’ (Outcome (7.3)). A system of regular file reviews is, in our experience, the best way of monitoring whether your practice is complying with all of its statutory, regulatory and other best practice obligations.
What the File Review won't identify
Review of technical competency is an equally important aspect of your risk management, due to the regulatory obligation to regularly check the quality of ‘suitably competent and experienced people’. However, we are regulatory compliance experts. We are not trained as lawyers in all of the specialist practice areas in which you may work, so we leave monitoring technical competency to you (although we can help you set up a system of technical reviews if you need it).
If your practice already has Lexcel accreditation, you will be familiar with the concept and practicalities of file reviews and also understand the benefits of them as a risk management tool. File reviews are part of the supervision and risk management systems intended to reduce operational risks (made when carrying out work). They aim to minimise the chance of mistakes occurring and by then reviewing the data, spot any trends and put in place remedial action.
LBS Legal's File Review service dovetails with your relevant office procedures.
We can provide you with a precedent form of client consent to ensure you comply with your statutory and regulatory duties to protect your client’s confidential information if the requisite consent was not obtained at the time of the client retainer.
Contact Ian Braithwaite on 07432 695 289 or email him at email@example.com to discuss a bespoke, fixed fee for LBS Legal’s File Review service, on a one-off basis or at agreed intervals (with the option of spreading the cost over a 12-month period).
Ian Braithwaite Client Relationship Manager
T: 0113 385 4483
M: 07432 695 289
The Law Society has issued a practice note about the risks to solicitors posed by this new legislation, which came into force on 30 September.
The SRA has urged all practices to check HM Treasury’s consolidated list of asset freeze targets, which lists designated persons subject to financial sanction under EU or UK legislation.
The practising certificate renewal period opened on Monday 2 October.
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