Solicitors and their attitude to accounts

Published On: March 28, 2014

As a solicitor with an original background in banking, I suppose I was used to record keeping when I joined my first firm as an articled clerk in 1985. As the lowest member of the team, I was responsible for the day to day recording of accounting transactions in the carbon copy ledgers. We had a freelance book-keeper who used to make flying visits to our office on an ad hoc basis where she used to spend most of her time talking and drinking tea. Although we did have an Oyez slip system for files, there was a generally relaxed attitude to record keeping at that time.

Nearly 30 years later and viewing matters from the other side of the fence as partner in a legal accounts firm, I cannot believe that so many firms continue to rely on cheque book stubs and paying in books for calculating how much client and office money they have.

Before the advent of Outcome Focus Regulation (OFR), I carried out research on the number of cases coming before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal due to failure to maintain proper accounts. The published figures for 2006/7 showed 28% were due to a breach of the Solicitors Accounts Rules having risen from 15% in 2003/4. It is likely that the numbers have continued to rise. OFR removes the box ticking exercise from the SRA and requires firms to demonstrate that they are in control of their finances and accounts. The days of employing a number cruncher to enter data are well and truly over and a much deeper relationship between solicitor and book-keeper is crucial if solicitors are to recognise systematic breaches and remedy them. Robust systems for record keeping and accounts procedures demonstrate to the SRA that a firm understands their responsibilities to their clients.

At The Law Factory LLP, we have always had procedures in place to ensure that our clients are fully compliant. We carry out monthly OFR checks for all our clients and recommend systems which help to show the SRA that our clients take their accounts seriously.

Debbie Downham
Managing Partner
The Law Factory LLP