Law Firm Audits in a Nutshell

It is easy to buy-in to the idea of an audit without first appreciating what it should deliver.

What should an audit deliver?

It is easy to buy-in to the idea of an audit without first appreciating what it should deliver. If you are new to the idea then the first thing to appreciate is that there is a world of difference between a tepid review of policies and procedures and undertaking a targeted risk sensitive audit of your firm. Your primary goal should be to identify the key issues your firm needs to tackle as a priority so that you can effectively allocate the resources at your disposal to combat them. Your secondary goal should be to identify what you do well and this is great currency when it comes to having those difficult conversations with insurers, investors, regulators and your management board.

What does an audit typically cover?

There is no magical formula used to produce the perfect audit since no two law firms are the same so a quick Google search is unlikely to help much.  That said, naturally you should cover the traditional favourites which include gaps in compliance with key legislation, SRA Handbook and guidance e.g. breach of one of the Outcomes, but if you want to lift your audit off the page and make it meaningful you need to ensure that it integrates with your risk management framework. Only then can you find out where your firm’s Achilles heel is located.

Should an audit be independent?

Part of the rationale behind the SRA labelling itself a “risk based regulator” is that it expects a firm’s management board to possess sufficient expertise to enable a degree of self regulation. This can be both a blessing and a curse and whilst lawyers can now choose the path they want to go down they still ultimately have to reach the right destination. Calling on the services of an independent risk expert not only gives the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes and the credibility that comes with having taken the time to invest in obtaining new perspective, it also enables you to benchmark yourself against the rest of the profession.

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