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  • Writer's pictureIrina Inayat

What are Solicitors Accounts Rules?

Updated: Jun 14

Solicitors are often involved in a very sensitive industry. When dealing with legal matters, they have access to a lot of private and confidential information from clients. A part of this private information can include payment and transaction information belonging to clients, such as trust funds or money held on behalf of third parties. 


As a result of this, solicitors need to ensure that they are compliant with Solicitor Account Rules (SAR) compliance rules. This is to make sure you don't go under SRA investigation or face criminal charges, which can have extremely detrimental consequences on your professional reputation. 


Solicitors Accounts Rules Explanation


Solicitor Account Rules (SAR) are the "legal account standards" in the UK that govern how solicitors (sole practices or firms) must handle client finances. 


These are mandated by the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA), which outlines a series of solicitor-client money regulations that all solicitors must abide by to safeguard client funds and the public. Please note that the Law Society Accounting Rules refer to the same set of regulations as the rules set by the SRA. 


Overview of SAR Guidelines

 

The SRA breaks down the SAR rules into four parts. These include: 

Part 1: General 

The first section specifies how the SRA Accounts Rules apply to different authorised bodies. In this section, the SRA sets out requirements for authorised bodies, their managers, and employees when dealing with money belonging to clients.


Part 2: Client Money and Accounts 

This section details how to handle client money and accounts. For instance:


  • How client money should be kept separate from the company's money.

  • The correct method of withdrawing funds from a client's account.

  • How client records should be kept.

  • A duty to correct beaches upon discovery.

  • How the payment of interest should be handled.



Part 3: Dealing with Other Clients or Third-Parties Money 

Part 3 is about the solicitor's financial regulations regarding how they handle money that they may hold on behalf of a client or third party. These can be referred to as solicitor trust account rules. 

It breaks down the operation of joint accounts, the operation of a client's own account, and how to manage third-party accounts. 


Part 4: Reports, Storage, and Retention of Account Records 

Lastly, Part 4 of the SRA rules for SAR is the requirement of reports and how they should be reported, kept, and stored for a certain period of time. 


Why is Compliance with SAR Important? 


SAR Compliance is very important. Failing to comply with their regulations can result in the following: 


1. SRA Intervention:

The SRA has the authority to investigate, impose fines, suspend, or deregister solicitors and firms found in breach of SAR, safeguarding the integrity of the legal profession.


2. Criminal Charges:

Mismanagement or misappropriation of client funds can lead to criminal charges such as theft or fraud, resulting in legal penalties and reputational damage.


3. Reputational Damage:

SAR breaches tarnish the reputation of solicitors and their firms, eroding trust with clients and stakeholders. In a competitive environment, rebuilding trust after such incidents can be challenging and may have long-lasting repercussions on your client and firm relationships.


Conclusion 


As you can see, as a solicitor, understanding the Solicitor Accounts Rules is mandatory. Failing to abide by these rules can result in some catastrophic consequences that can ruin your reputation, cause you to lose your license, and, even worse, cause legal charges. 


Compliance is not just a legal requirement but a fundamental aspect of maintaining professional integrity and safeguarding client interests. Solicitors must thoroughly understand and diligently implement SAR provisions to mitigate risks, uphold ethical standards, and preserve their reputation in the legal community. 


With these consequences, it's something solicitors will want to comply with. The best way to do this is to fully understand the rules set by the Solicitor Regulation Authority. This will help you create systems and practices that ensure compliance with the SAR rules. 

 


Irina Inayat



0207 183 6623


The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute professional advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal, accountancy or financial advice as appropriate on your individual circumstances by a fully qualified Solicitor, Accountant or Financial Advisor/Mortgage Broker before you embark on any course of action.

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