Q. I recently had occasion to look at another firm’s terms and conditions. One of the conditions states that if there is £10 or less on a client ledger at the conclusion of a matter, the firm will donate it to a charity of their choice. Is this acceptable under the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 1998?
A. No. Under rule 15(3) of the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 1998, a solicitor must account to his/her client for all money held in a client account at the end of a matter. You must therefore make every effort to return the money to the client and it would not be acceptable to have a standard term as you have suggested, no matter how small that amount is.
If the amount is very small, then you can seek the client’s instructions as to whether to send a cheque to the client or to put the monies in a charity box, but it is the client’s decision. You should confirm the arrangement in writing (although in the case of a very small, one-off amount, it may be sufficient just to keep an attendance note of the conversation).