Shieldcast: Episode 007

Hosted by Geoff Dunnett

Modern Law: Amy Bell on compliance as law firms change businesses models and adopt technology at pace

Amy Bell, co-founder of Teal Compliance and Teal Legal, discusses how lawyers can stay ahead of the curve in compliance and navigate the deep waters of regulation through technology, with host Geoff Dunnett.

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An early pioneer of modern compliance approaches, Amy has built a solid reputation for helping firms adapt to the changing legal landscape. Founding Teal Compliance in January 2018, Amy’s team provide support to law firms and help them to understand compliance, showing them how to apply risk management principles to improve client service and deliver efficiencies.

Amy’s passion and expertise of compliance and regulation has made her a popular industry speaker, with contributions for the Law Society, the ARK Group, MBL Seminars as well as local Law Societies.

A member and former Chair of the Law Society's Money Laundering Task Force, where she represents the solicitors profession at government and in Europe, Amy is also the author of the Law Society's Anti-Bribery Toolkit, their Anti Money Laundering Training courses, and co-author of the 4th edition of Solicitors and Money Laundering.

Amy’s latest book Solicitors & Money Laundering and Compliance That Works is published autumn 2020.

In this Modern Law episode of Shieldcast, Amy and Geoff discuss:

  • What are the challenges of compliance in an ever-changing legal landscape
  • How the advent of Alternative Business Structures (ABSs) have upped the stakes for maintaining competitive advantage
  • When new technology and stakeholders can co-exist and collaborate for tackling real life threats and opportunities
  • Why common approaches to compliance and anti-money laundering prevention are not enough as we adjust to the ‘new normal’.

Listen to this Modern Law edition of Shieldcast to find out more!

Read the transcript of this podcast

Geoff: Modern law firms, lawyers and legal tech companies should have compliance and risk mitigation at their core, after all the service provided is heavily regulated and the costs of failing on these fronts can be incredibly damaging, not just for the client, but also for the business. At Shieldpay, we talk about regulation and compliance being part of our DNA but keeping up to date with what is required, ensuring ongoing compliance and keeping ahead of those that are trying to overcome your defences, is a full-time job. Today on the Shieldcast we have the pleasure of welcoming a good friend of mine, Amy Bell, to the Shieldcast. Welcome Amy.

Amy: Hi Geoff.

Geoff: There are few people in the legal market that don’t know or know of Amy and Amy is the founder of Teal Compliance and Teal Legal, as well as the author of Solicitors' Money Laundering and Compliance That Works due to be published in Autumn 2020 I'm told, and Amy is a compliance consultant with a passion for helping firms adapt to the changing legal landscape. Amy is a member of the former and former chair of the Law Society's Money Laundering Task Force so there can't really be a person better than you to discuss the role of compliance in the modern legal landscape. So thank you for joining us.

Amy: Thank you for inviting me on. I mean it's always quite difficult to listen to all those things, I've been doing a lot of stuff, I think. Yeah, absolutely, I think I've spent probably 15 years in compliance now working within law firms and also as a consultant to law firms, as well as my role on the task force for probably the last 10 years now.

Geoff: Wow. I mean that is, you know, that's a wealth of experience. So, can you tell us a little bit more about what is Teal Compliance and also Teal Legal and I guess the 30-second elevator pitch?

Amy: Teal Compliance are a collection of consultants that help law firms with the rules and the regulations that they need to follow and we usually help law firms with anti-money laundering, regulatory compliance, code of conduct type stuff and also risk management. We do mainly three things: We help firms with their policies, we help them with their training and we audit to check everything's working; and our kind of main services, if you like, are wrapped up in something called Compliance Sorted and so we try and help law firms build a compliance programme that works because believe it or not, quite a lot of compliance programmes don’t work in the way that’s intended. I'm sure we'll get into that during the conversation but essentially from my experience, I have a kind of six-step model to help law firms build those compliance programmes which are much more likely to work and be worth the investment. Teal Legal on the other hand is a really interesting business. It's a law tech business, so really focused on building technology solutions to help law firms and help their clients. Our first kind of suite of products, if you like, are really focused on a conveyancing space and we really looked at conveyancing and thought what could we use technology for to improve the experience for home movers, but also for law firms? And so we not only think about how we can expedite the process, but also how we can manage the risk for everybody involved.

Geoff: Great. Well I know both of the businesses and it's really, really interesting and I'm sure listeners should look it up and have a look. So one of the things that I'd really like to talk to you about is in this new world of law, the modern law world where we're getting different types of legal practices, we're also getting legal tech coming into it. The challenge is obviously to keep every one of those different types of entities compliant in a way that protects the interests of, I guess, a consumer at the profession as well. So how is that morphing? How is that changing and how does it, as a practitioner of it, like how do you deal with that changing landscape.

Amy: So it's really interesting isn't it? I've been a solicitor for 20 years, nearly 21 years, and so when I started in the practice using a technology to manage cases was kind of brand new. The first law firm I worked in still had typewriters and carbon paper for the copies, that’s not that long ago really. Emails were unusual and using case management as I say to manage the progress of a case and to look out for reminders and things like that was really quite new in the early 2000s and you've got really the change in the legal sector started, I think with the separation of the Law Society and the Solicitors' Regulation Authority and also then the ability for other regulators to start regulating legal activities and the growth of other types of regulators - CLC, the conveyancers, the CILEX for legal executives. So, it's been a changing piece for quite a while.

We got to kind of 2011 where we got ABSs, so Alternative Business Structures, where law firms can be owned by non-lawyers because up until that point, you could only own a solicitor's firm if you were a solicitor, and I think that’s when I first started really in a consultancy role. I was a consultant for a network of law firms then and it was really that business was born out of the perceived threat of new entrants into the legal sector, bringing their smart, new, innovative ways into the sector and how would that compromise existing law firms. That business was set up solely to support more traditional law firms on their journey of change to adopting tech and new ways of doing things.

But it's really interesting: one of the things I learnt from there was you can have sponsors within a law firm. You can have people who really do see the vision and the benefit of adopting tech and changing the ways we do things, but not everybody is necessarily on the same page and I think one of the challenges for the legal sector is the partnership model that a lot of law firms still have and getting a buy-in from everybody. That can be quite difficult for people moving into the legal sector to understand the way that we work in the legal sector because we work from partnership models which generally require agreement to do things. If you do get a dispute, they can be quite difficult because these are people you're working with. It's not a kind of board decision voted upon and we move on to the next thing. It’s real people's feelings and actually, frankly, their actual money in their pocket that's impacted by some of these things.

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