If we include our payment details on bills, should we quote our business or client account number? We prefer bill payments to be paid into the business account but are concerned that clients may pay money into the wrong account.
Where a firm is operating a client account, one risk to consider when giving out account details to clients is of the client paying client money into business account when it should go into client account.
Although on this occasion the client may pay money into the correct account, if the client has the business account details you cannot necessarily stop them from paying client money into business account in the future.
To avoid the risk of a breach of the SRA Accounts Rules 2019, it’s advisable to disclose to clients only the client account details (not the business account) and then to transfer any monies between accounts as required by the Rules.
You need to have effective systems and controls of payments into the firm’s bank accounts: see:
- paragraphs 4.1 to 4.3 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors and 5.1 to 5.2 of the Code of Conduct for Firms, and
- Rules 8.1, 8.2, 8.3 and 8.4 of the Accounts Rules 2019
In providing client account details, there’s also a risk of unauthorised use.
While you may disclose client account details, be careful and keep circulation of the details to a minimum, informing clients that payment into this account is only for previously agreed purposes.
Discourage clients from passing the details on to third parties.
For more information, see chapters 2 and 12 of the Anti-money laundering guidance for the legal sector.
Another risk to consider is that of your firm’s accounts being exposed to scams.
Our advice is to make sure that you provide your client account details to clients in a secure manner at the outset of a transaction at a face-to-face meeting with the client or by a letter which is not sent by email. Similar arrangements may be considered for the payment of client bills.
For further information, visit our cybersecurity hub or call the Practice Advice Service on 0207 320 5675.
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.
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