Tuesday, December 18, 2018

SRA Risk Outlook 2018/19

The SRA have 10 priority risks for 2018/19 that all solicitors and firms need to consider.

The SRA Risk Outlook for 2018/19 was published in July and it helps solicitors and law firms manage risk within their firm. Here is a reminder of two of them, along with further information and things to consider. The rest of the risks will be covered in future blogs. If you wish to view all of the risks please go to: https://www.sra.org.uk/risk/outlook/risk-outlook-2018-2019.page

Access to legal services

How do the general public find what services are out there for them? When someone needs legal services, it normally means they are vulnerable and/or about to go through a period of stress. Two main problems that face the general public when they need help are:

  1. They feel they won’t be able to afford the services that law firms offer; 28% do not use solicitors because they think they are unaffordable
  2. There is a lack of information available – people are put off if they can’t be given a price; 61% have to speak to the firm to find out the price. If a prospective client calls your firm, can your team give them the information straight away? Have you updated your website to follow the price transparency rules?

Protecting client money

You must adhere to the SRA accounts rules to ensure that client money is safe. The top areas where firms fall down when visited by the SRA are:

Residual balances – Identify all matters that have residual balances, deal with them appropriately. Ensure the balance on the account for each file is down to zero before archiving. When taking over another firm, look at residual balances, identify if you have them, quantify what they are how long they’ve been there, keep client informed, have a clear plan how to deal with the balance. 

Client account reconciliations – Three way reconciliation is not being completed, cash book element missed off, adjustments showing for more than a month, staff signing off registers who don’t have sufficient knowledge to be able to do this.

Use of client account as a banking facility – Don’t do it, firms want to please clients, but this can lead to client account being used as a banking facility and this is not allowed. There must be an underlying legal transaction.

 

Guidance for all this is available with real life examples on the SRA Website.

If you have any queries regarding any of the ten risks in the SRA’s Outlook for 2018/19, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Author: Rhiannon Davies