controlling client money accounts

In the ever-evolving landscape of legal compliance, discussions around proposed changes often spark fervent debates. Last week’s Compliance for Law Firms session was no exception, drawing attention to the thorny issue of document control and its potential impacts. With a panel comprising experts from diverse backgrounds—insurance, accounting, and fraud—the session provided a multifaceted exploration of the topic.

Samantha Pye LLB (Hons) Cert CII from Miller Insurance Services LLP, Robert Blech from MHA, and Gavin Ball from HiveRisk lent their expertise to dissect the proposed changes. 

Analysing the impacts of a proposal by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to no longer allow law firms to control client money accounts, the overall mood of all was sceptical of this proposal. Most felt the proposal was flawed and that proper internal controls at firms were more important than an outright ban. Here are some key takeaways from their insightful discussions:

Trust and Relationship Dynamics

One prominent concern voiced during the session was the potential erosion of trust between solicitors and clients. Prohibiting law firms from controlling client accounts could inadvertently convey a message of distrust, casting a shadow over the longstanding client-solicitor relationship. Furthermore, such a move might impede law firms from fulfilling their commitments, including providing necessary undertakings.

Importance of Internal Controls

Rather than resorting to an outright ban on client accounts, the consensus leaned towards emphasising robust internal controls within law firms. Segregation of duties, stringent approval processes, and enhanced oversight were highlighted as pivotal measures to curb risks effectively. By focusing on bolstering internal mechanisms, regulatory bodies could foster a culture of accountability and responsibility within the legal sector.

Mitigating Fraud Risks

Fraud, a perennial concern in any industry, was acknowledged as an inherent risk within legal operations. While complete eradication might be unattainable, proactive measures can significantly mitigate the threat. Cultivating a culture of compliance, coupled with stringent checks and balances, emerged as a potent strategy to combat fraudulent activities.

Call for Nuanced Regulation

The proposal to ban law firms from controlling client accounts elicited scepticism among attendees. Many argued for a more nuanced, risk-based approach, tailored to the diverse needs and capabilities of different firms. Rather than enforcing sweeping changes, regulatory bodies were urged to adopt a more discerning stance, fostering transparency, and collaboration.

Path Forward: A Balanced Approach

In the midst of deliberations, a common thread emerged—the need for balance. While acknowledging the gravity of fraud risks, attendees expressed reservations about the proposed solution’s efficacy and potential repercussions. Instead, they advocated for alternative avenues that prioritise robust controls, transparency, and collaborative regulation.


  • A preference for ensuring proper controls and oversight at law firms rather than drastic rule changes.
  • Recognition that some fraud risk can never be fully prevented.
  • Areas where the SRA could improve its own processes and data sharing.

The discussions underscored the importance of reimagining compliance through a holistic lens—one that embraces innovation while safeguarding core principles of trust and accountability. As the legal landscape continues to evolve, the onus lies on regulatory bodies to foster a collaborative ecosystem, where stakeholders work hand in hand to navigate challenges and drive meaningful change. By heeding the insights gleaned from sessions like these, we can chart a course towards a more resilient and responsive legal framework, grounded in integrity and mutual trust.

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