Written By: Donna Boehme and Joseph Murphy August 12, 2013
Read the following excerpt from the article featuring Primerus member firm Smith Debnam as a leader in law firm compliance management.
10. COMPLIANCE IS A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
The first law firm that can boast of a robust compliance program will be unique in the field. That’s called competitive advantage. And perhaps this is not so far away, as the 22-lawyer firm Smith Debnam, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, has just announced the appointment of Jennifer Quillen as a full-time compliance officer. Quillen is a former FDIC bank examiner with 19 years of experience in risk management and internal controls.
What’s impressive is that the firm has dedicated one full-time professional to the new role (i.e., not just slapping an additional title on a partner or associate with extra time on their hands), reporting directly to the managing partner, Jerry Myers. According to Myers, that decision was “market-driven” by the expectations of the firm’s financial services clients for more than just “window dressing” when it comes to the physical security, data security, and privacy of their information.
And in addition to addressing the risks of the firm’s financial services practice, the new CCO will have the broad mandate to identify and address all other key compliance risks of the organization. “Law firms don’t like to admit that we are vendors, but that’s what we are,” observes Myers, “and our clients need to know that their vendors are serious about compliance. At some point, all law firms will need to be able to demonstrate that they take compliance seriously.”
From the sound of it, this firm is serious about compliance. If Smith Debnam has the resolve and foresight to appoint an experienced, full-time CCO for its 22 lawyers, what excuse does Big Law have for its continued head-in-the-sand approach?