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Managing Regulatory Information
As practice becomes ever more complex, keeping accurate and up-to-date records of regulatory and management related information is increasingly important for all firms. This may be information that arises from the work of the firm such as undertakings and complaints records or that which is more related to the management of the firm such as IT suppliers and software registers.
Although relevant to everyone, it is especially so for those who wish to obtain and retain quality assurance accreditation such as Lexcel and the Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) certification. For example, Lexcel at paragraph 3.2 requires that firms have “a register of all software used by the practice” whilst paragraph 6.5, requires that firms have a procedure for “recording and reporting centrally all complaints received from clients”.
To help firms to maintain adequate records, the Infoegal InfoHub contains a resource for recording information about a number of different areas all of which can be made available within the firm to those whom the firm chooses to have access.
As with all other aspects of the InfoHub, it is entirely up to the individual firm as to the extent to which they use this resource – for example they may not wish to use a particular form because it duplicates a resource that the firm has access to from elsewhere – and with whom in the firm the information is shared.
Recording Management and Regulatory Information
The Infolegal InfoHub provides subscribers with the resources to record information relating to the following:
A record of complaints received providing the firm with useful information about problems and allowing it to deal more effectively with any defects or issues that may arise.
Preventing conflicts between the interests of the client and those of the firm or its personnel, by recording private interests that could conflict with the interests of clients.
Gifts & Hospitality
Care must be taken when gifts by clients and third parties are offered to the firm or staff and any such gifts need to be registered with the practice, whether accepted or not.
Although not a regulatory requirement, a register of the firm’s IT assets allows managers to see what might be out of date and therefore presenting a potential problem to the practice.
Again there is no official requirement that an IT supplier register be maintained but doing so could be useful in the event that they should need to be contacted urgently.
Missed time limits are one of the main causes of claims against practices and one that Lexcel recognises. Practices should ensure that they have a procedure to monitor key dates, which must include, inter alia, “ensuring that key dates are recorded on the file and in a back-up system”.
Whether or not your firm operates a formal Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy it is wise to keep a register of those items of technology such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops that belong to staff but are used for the purposes of the business.
Clients who require assistance that the firm is unable to provide may be referred to someone able to provide the necessary service. The Referrals Register is used to record all such referrals and the details relating to them.
the SRA Codes of Conduct require that all regulated persons report promptly to The SRA, or other approved regulator, any facts or matters that could amount to a serious breach of their regulatory arrangements. This register assists with that process.
Residual Client Balances
Where the owner of a residual balance cannot be traced, the firm may deal with that balance by giving it to charity. However, a record must be made of how it was dealt with and that record must be retained for a minimum period of 6 years.
Unlike the hardware register, it is a requirement both of Lexcel and the CQS that firms maintain a register of all software they use. It is also good practice since it allows managers to see what might be becoming out of date and could therefore present a potential risk to the firm.
Special care must be taken in relation to the giving, monitoring and discharge of undertakings as the sanctions for non-compliance are severe and could result in a serious disciplinary offence culminating in proceedings before the SDT. Although there is no regulatory requirement for a central undertakings register, nevertheless it may prove useful in helping managers to monitor any undertakings given or received and the clients to whom they relate.