Ok so accounts rules are not at the forefront of your mind everyday. But like taking out insurance, the commute to work and washing your clothes, there are some tasks that despite not filling you with excitement you just have to do! Being aware of the most common accounts breaches might just help keep you right – being compliant with the rules will also keep the SRA and Law Society from breathing down your neck!

At The Cashroom we put policies in procedures in place for our clients to safe-guard them from breaching the rules, in this short piece we demonstrate the most commonly breached rules and advise on ways you and others in your firm can avoid these. And if you really do think I don’t care about all this – outsource it all and we will worry about it for you!

  1. FUNDS TRANSFERRED WITH NO WRITTEN AUTHORITY

To avoid breaches-

If funds are transferred between clients without the client’s written authority this is a breach, i.e. I am selling my flat and buying a house with a partner. As an individual I am selling a property, I am a singular client and must give written authority for the proceeds of my sale to be used in another matter, such as the purchase of a property jointly for my partner and me. For the purchase transaction my partner and I are dealt with as a joint client and matter. Therefore, my written authority is required to transfer the proceeds from the sale of my flat for the purchase of our house.

Put a procedure in place to ensure confirmation that the mandate giving the client’s written authority for a transfer to another client is on file and obtain a partner/directors approval in the instruction to Cashroom to transfer the funds

Put a procedure in place to ensure confirmation that all bills have been issued to the clients on creation

2. WITHDRAWAL OF FUNDS HIGHER THAN BALANCE HELD

To avoid breaches-

A breach can take place when there is a withdrawal of client funds from a ledger where the current balance held for that client is lower than the actioned withdrawal. A client account must not be overdrawn.

Ensure that before a payment is made/requested against the client account there are enough funds currently showing on the client side of the financial ledger to cover the withdrawal. If there are not sufficient funds on the client ledger you must not make the withdrawal.

3. RECORDING INTERMISSIONS OF PAYMENT

To avoid breaches-

There is a rule where a solicitor is not required to pay sums into the client a/c but must record such intermissions in the client ledger.

Ensure procedures are in place to log all incoming client cheques and log the outgoing details; of either by banking the cheque or endorsing the third party cheque direct to the client

4. CLIENT BALANCES AFTER CONCLUSION OF A MATTER

To avoid breaches-

Client balances held after the conclusion of a matter should be dealt with promptly. Any balance held after conclusion of the matter is a breach.

Review all balances currently held when receiving your month end balance listings from your Cashroom; and ensure all finalised matters are checked for balances before archiving

Obtaining the client’s bank details upon opening a new client will avoid the need to search for clients’ in the future

Points 5 & 6 not applicable in Scotland

5. CLIENT ACCOUNT DISBURSEMENTS

To avoid breaches-

Transfer of costs or disbursements from client account within 14 days of rendering the bill of costs or incurring the disbursement; or within 28 days of completion. Any funds still held in client account after 14/28 days is considered to be in breach.

Your Cashroom can produce reports to highlight all matters with outstanding office balances and where funds are held in client account to identify any potential transfers

Ensure procedures are put in place for all transfers to be instructed to your Cashroom on payment of the bill or disbursement

6. PROFESSIONAL DISBURSEMENTS

To avoid breaches-

The payment of billed professional disbursements should be made within 48 hours of receiving the funds in payment of your bill. If the professional disbursement has not been paid within this timeframe the funds are considered client monies and as such should be immediately transferred to the client account.

Ensure procedures are in place to identify that when a bill has been paid by your client; instructions to make payment of all unpaid disbursements included on the bill are sent to your Cashroom.

If you would like any advice on compliance, a health check inspection carried out on your accounts or are thinking about outsourcing your cashiering function, management accounts function or payroll then please do not hesitate to contact alex.holt@thecashroom.co.uk (for England/Wales) or gregor.angus@thecashoom.co.uk (for Scotland/Ireland) or visit www.thecashroom.co.uk for more information.

We can carry out mock compliance inspections for your firm at any time of year.

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