Coronavirus - Dealing with your client due diligence requirements (“CDD”)

In this Blog on some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal Service, we look at the most popular question we’ve had on how to deal with meeting your CDD obligations during a lockdown period. We are in unprecedented times and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to obtain certified copy documents from the majority of clients as they will struggle to deal with this during a period of restricted movement or total lockdown. It’s worth remembering that the CDD documents we collect are not used purely for anti-money laundering purposes but also to satisfy other requirements such as those set by UK Finance (i.e. where a client purchases a property with a mortgage, you’re require

Coronavirus - Dealing with compliance remotely

In this Blog looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal Service, we consider how to deal with compliance obligations remotely. How can we ensure compliance works remotely? The Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority will still expect compliance to happen and undoubtedly some elements of compliance, such as supervision of staff, are likely to be more challenging than others to deal with remotely. If you are the Compliance Office for Legal Practice it’s your job to take steps to ensure compliance is working at your firm and to detect and to report serious breaches of regulatory obligations. This can be done: Through complaints or claims: These processes are

Coronavirus - The biggest risk and compliance issue

In this Blog dealing with questions received from our clients through our Ask Teal Service, we look at what we see as the biggest risk and compliance issue that will arise as a result of Coronavirus and the impact it has on law firms. What do you think the biggest risk and compliance issue will be? Mistakes, undoubtedly. Staff are going to be feeling under pressure, feeling scared about quite a lot of things; illness, suffering possible bereavements, any financial disruption and the impact on their job that that might have. This could lead to a lack of concentration and staff suffering from mental health issues. From a risk manager’s point of view, this creates situations where we see thin

Coronavirus - Client confidentiality issues when working from home

In this next blog in our series looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal Service, we consider the client confidentiality issues that may arise when staff work from home. What are the likely client confidentiality issues when staff work from home? You’ll need to ensure that your firm continues to comply with rule 6.3 of the Code of Conduct for Firms (which of course applies equally to solicitors), obliging it to keep the affairs of both current and former clients confidential unless disclosure is required or permitted by law or where the client consents. You’ll also need to consider data protection issues, including the security of the information hel

Coronavirus - Succession Planning

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash One of the interesting features of the current lockdown is how it seems to be enabling people to open up their minds on thinking about their businesses. Maybe it has something to do with our seeing how the Powers That Be are restructuring themselves away from the traditional confrontational model that has evolved over the history of modern democracy and adopting a more collegiate approach. Part of that greater visibility is very much in evidence at the moment with Mr Johnson finding himself battling with the more severe manifestation of COVID-19. Apart from some minority extreme views – including a town mayor who has been sacked

Coronavirus - Supervision in a broader context in a locked down world

Photo by Mati Flo on Unsplash So how do you go about this supervision thing when you’re all isolated? There’s much that’s written elsewhere on the Teal Compliance website about the ways in which you can effectively implement a robust supervision system when we’re all working in different locations. But there are wider implications just in the general good governance sphere of running a business in a thoroughly business-like way. Supervision isn’t just the lynchpin of SRA Principle-Centric, well-delivered legal advice. Other regulatory standards, particularly AML, Lexcel and GDPR/DPA, set it at the heart of effective compliance delivery. And looking at it from a purely common-sense point o

Coronavirus - Merging under pressure and compliance due diligence

Sadly, in these challenging times, there are firms that, for one reason or another, are finding themselves in unexpected commercial difficulties that make their longer term viability questionable. Radical reconstruction by consolidation through merger may be the only alternative to closing doors for good, with all the unsavoury knock-on consequences that this entails. So now – more than ever – there are likely to be opportunities for merger to the potential benefit of both parties. In any potential merger situation it is becoming increasingly clear that compliance needs to be at the top of the priority list. Overall, it is a great indicator as to the management style of the merger target as

Coronavirus - Looking at the problems in dealing with Wills

One of the questions that we have been asked several times in recent days and on which both the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Law Society have recently provided guidance, is how law firms can deal with the witnessing of Wills given the impact of Coronavirus and, in particular, whether technology can be used for the virtual witnessing of Wills. This follows on from lawyers seeing a large jump in the number of people contacting them to either make Wills or update an existing Will - and not just the elderly and more vulnerable in society. Unfortunately, we now know that we’re dealing with a global crisis that has led to many deaths and will lead to many more before it is over. The

Coronavirus - Practical help for law firms. The likelihood of increased criminal activity

In our series of short blogs looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal service, next we consider whether criminals may use the Coronavirus situation to their advantage during this period. Question: Do you think that the “baddies” may try to use the Coronavirus situation to their benefit believing that law firm staff may not be as focused as usual on AML requirements? Yes, we definitely do. You should make your staff aware that criminals may try and use the Coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to tell you that they are unable to provide you with the usual documents needed to verify their identify that you’ve asked them for, or with the bank statement

Coronavirus – Practical help for law firms. Dealing with clients

Continuing our series of blogs looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal service, we consider how to deal with clients who, whilst wanting their matter to progress as quickly as possible, drag their feet in providing information requested from them. Question: Any tips for dealing with clients who are anxious for early progress in their matters but slow to provide information and/or return signed engagement letters? Should we be suspicious? First, we need to consider why we ask clients to sign and return engagement letters. Many lawyers that we speak to believe that a key reason for this is to assist firms to get paid. Engagement letters contain a l

Coronavirus – Practical help for law firms. Dealing with the absence of key Compliance Officers

Continuing our series of blogs looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal service, here we consider the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA) likely approach to absences of key compliance staff. Question: Will the SRA look at derogations on the restriction on outsourcing key compliance roles? We do not think that the SRA will relax the requirements for firms to have outsourced COLPs – they will still expect someone within the business to undertake this role. We recommend that if you have not done so already, that you identify and train up Deputies as soon as possible. You should consider this for your COLP, COFA and MLRO roles. Given the absence of l

Coronavirus – Practical help for law firms. Issues with compliance during Coronavirus and the SRA’s

Continuing our series of blogs looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal service, this blog considers the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA)'s likely approach during this period. Question: Will the SRA be more lenient with us if we are non-compliant during this period? As at the date of our recent Ask Teal Webinar (19 March), the SRA had not yet issued any information or guidance regarding Coronavirus. It was Teal’s view at that time that the SRA would expect firms to remain fully compliant with applicable rules and regulations but that if, for example, problems in client service arose during the period, that provided you could show that you had

Coronavirus – Practical help for law firms. Dealing with cheques received in the post

In our next blog looking at some of the many queries received from our clients through our Ask Teal service, we consider how to deal with client money received in the post during a lockdown period. Question: How do we deal with depositing cheques received in the post during this period? Prior to the changes introduced in November 2019, the SRA rules required you to deposit monies received from clients essentially the same day or the next working day. The new SRA Accounts Rules now require you to do this “promptly”. Many firms have left their policies unchanged as they are satisfied that next day banking constitutes “prompt”. Other firms in smaller locations have taken the opportunity to a

Coronavirus – Practical help for law firms. Dealing with Post

We’ve received lots of queries from our clients through our Ask Teal Service. In this blog we look at how to deal with post coming into and out of the business (we can’t say “office”, as this is not now necessarily the case). Question: What do I do about post coming into the office during a lockdown period if our offices are closed? How do I collect and distribute it to staff working at home and assign it to client files? Different firms will of course need to take different action depending on the amount of post they receive and whether their offices are closed - some may retain a skeleton staff to deal with matters such as post. What you decide to do will also depend on the extent of an

Merging Under Pressure and Compliance Due Diligence

Sadly, in these challenging times there are firms that, for one reason or another, are finding themselves in unexpected commercial difficulties that make their longer term viability questionable. Radical reconstruction by consolidation through merger may be the only alternative to closing doors for good, with all the unsavoury knock-on consequences that this entails. So now – more than ever – there are likely to be opportunities for merger to the potential benefit of both parties. In any potential merger situation, it is becoming increasingly clear that compliance needs to be at the top of the priority list. Overall, it is a great indicator as to the overall management style of the merger t

GDPR in COVID-19 times

When the new and more stringent rules on data protection came through in the form of GDPR, one of the most common gripes among firms was the amount of time it was going to soak up in a world that was already busy enough keeping a firm running profitably. The gripe was right – it does take a lot of time to do it properly. And many firms would, if they were being honest with themselves, tacitly admit that they had probably done just enough to get themselves compliant by the due date. Whether they’re keeping themselves there with regular reviews and training is perhaps another question. But, have they done enough really to benefit from coupling the legislative requirements more closely to the

COVID-19 Infected Premises and BCP's

So you discover that a member of your staff who is now working from home – or a client, or a contractor who serviced the printers or mended a leaking loo, or the postman, or a courier who has had cause to come to the office – has tested positive for Coronavirus and is showing symptoms. In practical terms what do you do next? Consult your Business Continuity Plan Immediately close the office Should all staff now self-isolate? Taking into account Data Protection Act Regulations on special category data anyone who may be affected should be informed and asked to self-isolate Do you have sufficient non-affected staff to man the office over the next 14 days? Is it reasonable to ask them to come i

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