How to ensure healthy cash flow and compliance with financial rules

How Virtual Practices’ legal cashier coordinator and her colleagues help to ensure that law firm clients stay in control of their accounts and cash flow – as well as SRA compliant

How did you become a legal cashier?

Laura Robinson(LR): “I was working as a law firm office junior when I was offered the opportunity to become a legal cashier. That was in 2008 and I performed that role for four and half years. I received excellent on-the-job training from the firm’s accountant.”

Sounds like you enjoyed it?

LR: “I did and I learned so much about all aspects of law firm accounting. And the experience I gained has since proved invaluable when working with our law firm clients. As a legal cashier, I also got to know all about the financial compliance issues law firms face.”

What about qualifications?

LR: “After I joined Solicitors Own Software [parent company of Virtual Practices] in 2012, I began studying and I now hold an ILFM [Institute of Legal Finance and Management] Diploma, but doing the job day to day teaches you so much.”

What do legal cashiers do?

LR: “Legal cashiers are responsible for their law firm’s accounting and finance functions. Their key duties range from billing clients, paying suppliers and bank account reconciliations to producing financial reports for management and P&L sheets for the firm’s annual accounts.”

Do legal cashiers have any other responsibilities?

LR: “Yes, crucially, they must ensure that their law firm complies with the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules, which are regulated by the SRA [Solicitors Regulation Authority]. Law firms regularly handle client money, of course, and because of the risk of fraud or money laundering, they must adhere to the SRA Code of Conduct and comply with the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules.”

Tell us about Virtual Practices?

LR: Virtual Practices isn’t just legal accounting software, it’s also an outsourced legal cashiering service, so we also help our clients to be SRA-compliant. We’re a compliance safety net. We encourage clients to ring us if they have any accounting or compliance queries or issues.”

Do you offer any other services?

LR: “Weekly bank reconciliation for all of our law firm client’s live bank accounts. We inform them of any outstanding payments, anomalies or queries. Customers tend to be better at matter-related posting when using our software, but we often have to provide a lot of guidance as regards overhead expense posting. Previously, many of our users would have worked for larger law firms, where such things were taken care of by others.”

How do you help clients to keep their cash flow healthy?

LR: “Every month we audit their systems and controls, to test that they’re in balance. We also provide clients with monthly, on demand or bespoke management reports, so they can better understand their income, costs, cash flow and overall financial performance.”

Sounds like supporting customers is a key objective?

LR: “It is and that begins as soon as a new client goes live. We like to be there when our clients need us. We want to ensure that their finances are well managed. We want them to understand how their business is performing. Crucially, we want to save them time and money – and free them up to get on with other things. If you’re a fee-earner, the last thing you want is to get distracted by or bogged down in basic accounts work. You want to get on with your case work and with attracting new clients and growing your business.”

Typically, are your clients start-up law firms?

LR: “We do specialise in serving their needs, but our clients also include larger and more established law firms. Typically, a start-up client might have between one and three users of our software, but we have clients who have 30 or more users, although the average would be 12 users. Our clients want software and service that can grow as they grow. That’s what we offer.”

What do you enjoy most about your job?

LR: “The variety of my tasks, which I wouldn’t have if I was a legal cashier for a large law firm, where roles are more restricted. I also enjoy dealing with a variety of people each week when speaking to clients. I enjoy helping them get the very best out of our software and services.”

Sounds like helping clients to succeed is important?

LR: “We like to think we’re the equivalent of a client having their own in-house legal cashier. I get genuine satisfaction from helping our clients to grow their businesses. Often people set up on their own after leaving a large law firm. It’s great to work with them over many years and watch their firms grow into much larger and more successful law firms. And to feel that you’ve helped them to achieve that.”

Your working day sounds busy. How relax outside of work?

LR: “I enjoy spending time with friends and family, and I exercise when I have the time. I’ve just got engaged, so I’m busy planning my wedding now, which is taking up a lot of my spare time. And all of the budget and cost management experience I’ve gained from my career is really coming in handy. Weddings aren’t cheap.”

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