An increasingly strict regulatory regime has changed the legal sector forever. At the same time, the financial pressure on many firms has grown substantially as challenger firms and online providers have made their presence known.
What’s more, with many law firms registering as Alternative Business Structures (ABSs), there has been a rise in non-lawyer experts taking on management roles. And these non-lawyers are applying tried and tested business techniques to improve standards, deliver consistency and reduce costs. In response, more and more traditional firms are having to adopt a similar business-like management approach to keep up.
But it’s not just about surviving. By modernising the way they operate, law firms can also thrive in today’s challenging legal landscape.
One way that savvy firms are choosing to innovate and respond to change is by outsourcing essential business tasks. In particular, legal cashiering is one back-office function that has become increasingly popular to offload.
“Outsourcing to The Cashroom has been painless. So easy to deal with accommodating everything that we need to do, when we need to do it, whilst keeping us on the right side of the vast array of regulations.
We have complete trust in them to ensure our compliance, and have a Law Society Inspection Report which proves what a great job they are doing for us.
We will never have a cashier in our office again.”
Kate Anderson, Director at Masson Cairns
Why outsource your law firm’s cashiering?
Rather than wasting time on routine, non-legal tasks, many law firms have chosen to contract things out, while they focus on the more lucrative aspects of winning new business and keeping clients happy. And, with lawyers increasingly expected to do more with less, the appeal of outsourcing is only getting stronger.
Here are just some of the ways that outsourcing your legal cashiering can help your law firm.
Reduce the cost and burden of managing employees
Legal accounting is a complex administrative task, so it’s vital that your firm has access to experienced staff. This is especially important in such a highly regulated industry. But, with a shortage of quality legal cashiers, finding qualified bookkeepers can be tricky. And, interviewing and assessing candidates’ integrity and skills is not straightforward for a law firm.
At the same time, the total cost of employing in-house cashiering personnel is expensive. Because, in addition to wages, you also have to take the costs of recruitment, induction, training, mentoring, sick pay, maternity cover, holiday cover, pension contributions, and National Insurance into consideration.
Also, law firms face the challenge of having to fund sufficient senior cashiering resource to deal with complex, high risk elements, while using that same resource to carry out the more mundane, junior tasks. And that’s not cost-effective.
Employing a full-time legal cashier may not even be financially viable for smaller firms. And, if you are one of the 523 new law firms planning to open in the next year, you will need affordable, quality cashiering support to challenge the larger players.
Using an experienced outsourcing supplier lets your law firm tap into recognised, certified expertise, without the burden and cost of employing and managing your own staff; making it a much more affordable option. In addition, a resourcing approach provides you with 9-5 support and real time cashiering, but at a cost based on the actual activity and skill level your firm requires.
Respond quickly to a changing marketplace
Today’s legal market is in a state of flux. Because outsourced services are scalable, your firm can adapt quickly to rising or slowing demand for services, without the worry about hiring or laying off staff. And you only ever pay for what you use.
So, by partnering with a trusted outsourcing expert, smaller law firms benefit from a more agile approach. As such, embracing an outsourcing ethos could help you to adapt and thrive. And secure your long-term survival.
“The Cashroom offer an invaluable service for any solicitor’s firm. Their approach is efficient, professional and responsive. They have allowed us to deal with rapid growth by taking on all accounts functionality.”
Alexis Brassey, Managing Partner and Notary Public at Cavendish Legal Group
Save valuable office space and costs
We have already looked at how outsourced legal cashiering can help your law firm to cut down on employment costs. But the savings don’t stop there.
With outsourced cashiering, you will also save on infrastructure and associated office costs (e.g. energy, floor space, hardware, software, etc.). Indeed, when you consider the total cost, you can save thousands of pounds year-on-year by outsourcing.
Reduce the compliance burden
Compliance is now a pressing concern for most businesses. Not least because the rules and regulations are continually changing. But for law firms, the need for demonstrable security and integrity is vital.
For example, when it comes to legal cashiering, your firm is professionally obliged to keep an accurate set of books. But for lawyers, preparing accounts can be stressful and worrying, especially when they don’t have access to certified experts. However, not taking the time to dedicate the focus necessary to accounts-related work is not an option. Because unintentional accounting errors can prove costly, and, if a mistake happens, the risk to your reputation and your bottom line could be devastating.
However, if you employ an outsourced legal cashier, they won’t just keep your accounts in order. They will also enable compliance with the Solicitors Accounts Rules and Money Laundering Regulations. And, crucially, an outsourced cashier will also ensure that there’s a clear audit trail as required by your accountant or inspector.
With the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) accounts rules set to undergo their first major overhaul in years this November, with significant changes that all firms will need to prepare for, firms should look to get their cashiering processes in order now to stay ahead of the game.
“The Cashroom has definitely been a good business move, not only because of efficiency but also in relation to compliance which can be daunting at times.”
Susan Ayre, Partner at Simon A Holt & Co
Plan for business as usual
Law firms that don’t want to suffer any downtime due to unexpected events have to be prepared. For example, how would you cope if unforeseen and long-term absenteeism hit your business?
By offering support that never stops or takes a break, with outsourced legal cashiering you are free from the burden of sick days, jury duty and family emergencies. So, as well as saving you money, it can also boost your productivity.
Also, as alarmist as it might sound, extreme weather conditions are on the rise. And, with global warming set to lead to more and more changing weather patterns, you have to think about how you can continue to operate if you can’t access the office. Outsourcing business services such as legal cashiering can help to support your disaster recovery planning. With remote support available when you need it.
Free your solicitors up, to get on with what they do best
Law firms depend upon a steady cash flow to survive, so keeping on top of your bookkeeping is essential.
But, for many practices, this can be both challenging and time-consuming. Correcting errors is a costly waste of your valuable time; especially where many other responsibilities need looking after. For example, if you don’t nurture and grow your client base, your business will suffer, you’ll spend less time earning fees, and the less profitable you’ll be.
With time one thing none of us has in excess, it pays to acknowledge that you can’t be an expert in all areas of your business. Instead, you should focus on your strengths.
Removing the hassle from your shoulders, expert outsourced legal cashiering will take care of everything for you. Leaving you free to spend more time with clients and other tasks that make your firm money.
By outsourcing your legal cashiering you’ll also have peace of mind that you are working with people who have experience in dealing with day-to-day bookkeeping, as well as the escalation of matters where necessary.
“We operate a business which requires efficiency and certainty of service. The Cashroom has augmented our own internal accounts team, taking control of key elements and working closely to provide a seamless service to us.
We have found them to be extremely professional and helpful, at a cost which has achieved significant savings as against an in-house approach.”
Andrew Kwan, Solicitor-Advocate at Clear Law Solicitors
Help your law firm to grow
An outsourced cashier will ensure an up-to-date log of case-related fees and expenses for regular claim back purposes – resulting in a healthier cash flow. And that’s crucial to business growth. But more than this, with the right support, you will also get access to better forecasting data. So, using an outsourced cashier can provide valuable business insights that can be used to identify trends and inform your overall business strategy.
For example, forecasting data can be used to assess the profitability of certain matters, to intelligently determine opportunities for growth, and to identify legal service areas that are becoming problematic.
What type of firm needs outsourced legal cashiering?
We help many types of law firms with their outsourced legal cashiering needs. Including:
- Sole practitioners up to mid-sized firms.
- Firms where the cashier has retired (as it can be difficult to recruit cashiers)
- Firms where the cashier is going on maternity leave
- Firms that are restructuring and dealing with TUPE options
- Firms that need help to improve following a Law Society Inspection
- Firms where the lawyers have been trying to do it themselves and have no real knowledge of compliance
- Forward thinking firms with a desire to do things differently.
The challenges of outsourced legal cashiering (and how to overcome these)
When it comes to introducing outsourced legal cashiering into your law firm, the benefits are clear. But what are the challenges you will face?
Law firms are a particular target for cyber criminals, not least because of the huge sums of money transacted each day. But criminals are not just looking for financial gains; they are also after the confidential data which is at the crux of the solicitor-client relationship.
When it comes to protecting client money, it’s only natural that you’d be worried about putting your valuable data and finances in the hands of a third-party. But, in most cases, an outsourced partner will have invested heavily in security measures such as encryption, firewalls, password protection, physical data centre anti-intrusion systems, software updates and back-up procedures. They should also have a robust confidentiality process in place to ensure confidential client information is protected as per the SRA code. It can be hard for smaller law firms to provide the same level of protection.
Let’s face it, if you have one single cashier who sets up and authorises payments, a fraudster need only obtain a single set of bank login details. Even if you have multiple cashiers to check payment details, they are all likely to be on one single network, so it’s easy for a hacker to get all the information and access rights they need.
Modern law firms are like mini banks, but without the resources required to protect the money they hold securely. That is precisely where the added value of outsourced provider comes in to play.
The burden of managing a third-party supplier
Some law firms are concerned that managing a third-party could be just as complicated as looking after in-house staff. But this shouldn’t be the case.
Yes, it’s true that, if your requirements are complicated, you may rely on multiple outsourcing partners. And this can become tricky, not least because, in an age of interconnected systems, getting a supplier to take responsibility if something goes wrong can be a challenge. But the right outsourced legal cashier will be used to a multi-party model and will do everything possible to streamline and simplify things for you.
Of course, there are also benefits of simplifying supplier management. For example, using one partner for multiple tasks such as cashiering and management accounts.
Fear of change
Change is both risky and exciting. But it can also foster self-doubt. Will all your effort be worth it?
As we established earlier in this guide, the law is not just a profession; it is also a business. So it’s vital to keep moving forward. And, with a wealth of benefits to be had, not taking the leap could mean that your competitors get ahead while you stagnate.
When investing in outsourcing, price is always going to be a concern. So, when making your business case, it’s crucial to understand the total cost of ownership (TCO).
What’s more, price doesn’t always mean value. In many cases, spending money and saving yourself time is more cost-effective.
Being stuck with the provider
When looking to outsource, one of the biggest concerns faced by law firms is that they will be stuck with the service provider in some unholy death grip.
Many outsourcers combat this fear with exit clauses in their contracts. However, even with an agreement which allows for termination, you could face difficulties replacing the service, either by taking it back in-house or by finding another, better outsourcer.
There is also a concern about ‘professional behaviour’ on separation. With numerous horror stories where the outsourcer makes life extremely difficult – either by ‘working to rule’ or by being generally obstructive as the service is taken off them.
To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, due diligence is needed before signing any agreement. This should include obtaining a reference from a firm which no longer uses the service and putting a plan in place for end of contract.
Integration with other processes
The last thing you want to do when appointing an outsourced legal cashier is to have to switch all your existing systems. But modern partners should be able to work with your current setup.
To make this work they will look at things such as:
- How your systems are hosted and how they access them (e.g. server-based or cloud)
- How the system works (e.g. how are documents stored and how will financial information requests be forwarded)
- Who will manage the process your end (e.g. will there be a specific contact, or will they liaise directly with fee-earners).
The Cashroom has a totally system agnostic approach. This means that firms need not change their systems before benefiting from the service.
Things to consider before you appoint an outsourced legal cashier
Outsourcing your legal cashiering will have many rewards. But as with any investment, there are some things to consider before making the leap.
What questions should you ask your preferred provider?
Who will manage your account?
For example, will it be a dedicated individual, and, if so, who will cover for sickness or absences?
You should also make sure that you will be supported by specialist legal cashiers. It is vital that any partner you appoint doesn’t just have a firm grasp of accounts, but also possesses an ILFM qualification and has an in-depth understanding of the SRA Handbook, SRA Accounts Rules, and other relevant guidelines.
Can you get a reference from other customers?
A few positive words from a happy customer can put your mind at rest and give you confidence in your decision. As such, ask the outsourced legal cashier for references.
What are the terms of your agreement?
It’s vital that you understand the terms of any contract and Service Level Agreement (SLA) you are entering. Things to look out for include:
- Data protection processes and guarantees
- If they have an established business continuity and disaster recovery plan
- How they would handle a security incident and rectify any data or financial losses
- Whether they hold professional indemnity insurance
- Who owns your data
- What happens if you want to end the contract
- If they will support you during a compliance visit.
Do they offer an online portal?
In an age of intense regulatory compliance, demanding client needs and increasing levels of cyber crime, it is imperative that any online portal is able to protect client information, improve the customer journey and provide increased efficiency.
Remain Cyber Secure and GDPR Compliant
Traditional forms of online communication, like emails, are coming under intense scrutiny as phishing attacks and technological vulnerabilities are costing law firms millions each year.
An effective portal can minimise this risk as both internal and external stakeholders are able to communicate and share information through the secure portal. All communication exchanges are secure with access restricted to authorised members of the firm carrying the relevant security information.
Using an outsourced legal cashier without such a secure portal service poses serious security and GDPR risks. Financial and personal information sent to the legal cashier through word processing documents and email could be intercepted and used by unscrupulous cyber criminals causing financial and reputational damage to your firm.
Working outside of a portal creates a myriad of opportunities for communication to be lost or seriously delayed. It is extremely easy to mislay or overlook an email. Busy practitioners working on legal services are bombarded with email requests meaning the legal cashiers could be delayed. Similarly, sending a request to the outsourced cashier means that your firm’s request is buried within the work of their other clients. This could delay important transactions and reduce efficiency.
A portal can solve this. Each request that is made both internally and externally is unique to the business. Here at The Cashroom, all tasks also have an automated workflow, ensuring that deadlines are adhered to and communication is clear for all concerned.
Portal functions also enable the legal cashier to eliminate internal and external email. All requests are clearly tracked and progress is monitored via the technology. This means that each task has a clear and easily accessed audit trail; something that becomes extremely time consuming when using emails alone.
How quickly can you get up and running?
As with any investment, it’s essential to get up and running quickly. Ask your outsourcer how long this will take, whether there will be any downtime or disruption, and if there is a migration plan to ensure a smooth transition.
Do they offer any other outsourced services?
As previously discussed, it’s not unusual for law firms to be put off by the idea of managing multiple third-party suppliers. To keep things streamlined, find out if they offer any other outsourced services to help you consolidate your supplier management. Could they be a ‘one-stop-shop’.
Why work with The Cashroom?
Pioneers in the evolving legal landscape, at The Cashroom, we supply you with high calibre, qualified and experienced legal cashiers – at a fraction of the cost of employing your own staff. We also help you to unlock a huge range of additional outsourcing benefits.
For example, when you work with us, we will:
- Save you money
- Offer a fixed monthly fee, so you stay in control of your cash flow
- Work with your existing practice management system (or provide recommendations where wanted)
- Remove the burden while making sure you stay in control
- Help to keep you compliant with industry rules and wider regulations
- Facilitate and support your business growth
- And more!
More than outsourced cashiering, we also offer management accounts and payroll support to law firms across the UK.
With trained lawyers on our team, and board members who were previously managing partners of their own firms (along with a chartered accountant), we also understand what it takes to run a successful legal business. And we share all this knowledge and expertise with you.
But we don’t expect you to take our word for it. As well as having won multiple industry awards, we are also happy to supply references of current and former customers to give you all the peace of mind you need.
“We have been using The Cashroom’s services for three years now. We brought them in to provide a secure, efficient, compliant cashiering function to support our growing business with their flexible resource model.
They have delivered exceptional service with a real personal touch, saving us money but delivering a quality finance function which suits our forward thinking approach to the provision of legal services to our clients. Their processes work especially well for our very busy conveyancing team.”
Gareth Jones, Practice Manager at Easthams Solicitors Limited
What type of tasks can we help you with?
The Cashroom provides all the legal cashier services typically provided to a firm of solicitors; the difference is we employ “your” cashiers, and they work remotely from our offices. Among many other things, we:
- Maintain up-to-date books and records
- Process all day to day transactions
- Make bank payments
- Reconcile firm and client bank accounts daily
- Pay suppliers
- Perform day and month end routines
- Prepare and submit VAT returns
- Assist with VAT inspections
- Prepare Law Society Certificates and assist with inspections (Scotland only)
- Provide information for Accountants’ Reports
- Ensure full compliance with Law Society Accounting Rules /SRA.
Today, outsourced legal cashiering is not only helping law firms to make significant cost and time savings, but it is also leading to improvements in productivity and growth. Crucially, outsourced legal cashiering is helping to relieve the massive compliance worry. But when it comes down to it, the most significant benefit of outsourced legal cashiering is that it frees up lawyers to focus on client work.
 Hazlewoods, Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers