Annual accounting and SRA Accounts Rules inspections are a routine part of law firms’ calendars. Accurate, secure accounts management is a tremendous responsibility and preparing for these yearly events is often a stressful and worrying time.
Legal news perpetually reports the consequences for practices found to be in breach of the SRA Accounts Rules which can result in forced closure by the SRA as one of the most serious outcomes.
Practices rely upon SRA Accounts Rules-conversant accountants, such as the dedicated team of legal specialists at multi-office Kreston Reeves LLP, to assist with habitual accounting procedures.
“One of our principal areas of expertise is the preparation of solicitors’ accounts,” states Peter Farley, Senior Manager at Kreston Reeves. “We’re also specialists in supporting firms through SRA Accounts Rules inspections which form part of the SRA Handbook and are aimed at protecting client monies.”
Kreston Reeves and legal software and service provider, Quill, have a number of mutual clients. As users of Quill’s Interactive hosted legal accounts software, law firms are given a free licence for their accountant to remotely access their financials via the internet.
“We work with quite a few Quill clients,” continues Peter. “Some of them use the legal accounts software and others use Quill’s full outsourced cashiering service, Pinpoint, too. Because the software is cloud based, we’re able to perform the bulk of our accounting tasks from our own offices by logging in remotely through accountant-only access. So when the time comes to visit our clients, our time on site is shorter and less intrusive.”
Commenting on the standard process for law firms with a traditional set up comprising locally-installed legal accounts software with an in-house cashier, Peter explains how these practices would typically have to “provide hard copy accounting records so that accountants can access relevant information for annual accounts preparation and print paper copies of client ledger reports for inspections”.
“These manual tasks are labour intensive, time consuming and disruptive, let alone costly on paper and ink!” adds Peter. “For practices running hosted systems, we’re able to do our important work in the background, not getting in the way of their day-to-day business of managing finances. We do still have face-to-face on-site contact, though, as Rule 37 of the SRA Accounts Rules dictates client premises as the place for examination of accounting records and files. But the initial electronic analysis of data through hosted software helps to reduce the length of our visit. Continued online access to everything accounts related when on site allows practice employees to work as normal, without interruption, while we view live data in the system.”
Peter further comments on the ease of his role when liaising with Pinpoint cashiering service clients which gives “comfort that the accounting records are being maintained in line with the SRA Accounts Rules. The automatically cashier-generated reports give a comprehensive view of accounts’ status and evidence of compliance”.
“Quill’s cashiers work as a team and have the benefit of sharing specialist knowledge and experience between them,” concludes Peter. “With Pinpoint clients, they always have an allocated cashier with the comfort of knowing that in leaves of absence there’s always someone there to ensure continuity. A sole in-house cashier works alone where sickness or holiday cover can potentially become a problem.
“I actively promote Quill’s software and outsourcing services to law firms not already using its products. Remote system access and precise accounts management streamlines annual processes which in turn makes Kreston Reeves’ work more efficient!”
Julian Bryan, Quill’s Managing Director, remarks: “At Quill, our aim is to simplify legal accounting as much as possible while acknowledging the obvious complexities involved at each stage for the purposes of regulatory compliance. Interactive and Pinpoint are the channels from which we do this. By working closely with accountancy practices such as Kreston Reeves, we’re able to put into place the foundations for smooth-running legal accounts.”