Legal profession

Since establishing our legal services team over twenty years ago, we've carefully grown our expertise and experience to support an ever-increasing number of law firms and a range of legal professionals. Nowadays we look after around 200 barristers, judges and QCs, just over 200 individual solicitors and more than 40 law firms. There’s plenty of information here about the different support we can provide but if you want to talk about how we can help you, please call John Beevers or Paul Lodder on 0113 297 6789.

Barristers, judges and QCs

We understand that ideally you’ll want to concentrate on your legal career and leave the accounting and financial matters to someone else. Rest assured that you can rely on our dedicated barrister team, and the wider experience available within Sagars, to take care of everything from bookkeeping, accounts and tax compliance, to wider tax planning issues that require bespoke solutions.

You can have complete confidence that we understand the intricacies of the taxman's rules relating to barristers' accounts and, thanks to the efficiencies and opportunities that cloud accounting is delivering, all that you really have to do is choose how much you'd like us to help and we'll do the rest.

Read our cloud accounting and trusts and estates information for more ways in which you can benefit from our expertise, together with our specialist services for private clients.

Solicitors

Whether you're a sole trader or a partner in a law firm, all solicitors must submit a personal tax return and can benefit from our personal tax services and private client expertise. In addition to dealing with personal tax compliance matters for individual solicitors, we're experienced in liaising with partnerships to plan for future tax payments with the intention of improving cashflow and ensuring adequate provision for the payment of tax at the right time.

Legal Practices

We know what's what when it comes to understanding the legal sector and our most recent legal practice survey confirmed that the trio of key pressures from existing (and emerging) competition, regulatory change and ever-increasing levels of client expectation mean that it’s still really hard to build and maintain a successful law firm. Although this probably won't be news to those of you grappling with the day-to-day pressures of law firm management, the survey results provide a fascinating insight into the 'SME' legal sector across England and Scotland – the high street and specialist firms who often feel the pressure most keenly of all. We know that your time is precious so take just two minutes out to watch our short animation that highlights the main findings here.

This said, the opportunities are substantial for firms willing to embrace change and adapt to the way things are now. Alongside the core accounting, tax and payroll services that we can provide, we can help ensure the future success of your law firm with specialist support in the following areas:

If you hold client money you’ll normally need to have an audit under the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules 1998 (SAR). As registered auditors and with years of SAR audit experience, we are experts in this field. Focusing on compliance with the rules and identifying potential system improvements to benefit your firm, we can also provide in-house training to ensure effective compliance with the rules (and feedback tells us we even manage to make this interesting as well as practical and informative!).

Despite the changing nature of the professional services world, benchmarking remains one of the most powerful business techniques around. Drawing on our national and regional links within Accelerate, we can compare your activities and performance against others to highlight improvement opportunities and you’ll benefit from our knowledge in selecting the right benchmarking criteria and financial performance measures. Your clients will be comparing your service in terms of speed, accuracy, availability and approachability – both within the legal profession and beyond. It’s important that you do likewise.

How does your finance function perform? Could you save money or improve client care by doing things differently? Are your finances properly controlled? Do your fee-earners fully understand the rules for dealing with client and office money? These are just some of the questions that our finance function review can answer – and we’ll work with you to develop a practical action plan so that you can benefit from the opportunities and recommendations we make.

Solicitors’ practices are particularly vulnerable to cash-flow problems due to lock up and the time taken to bill and collect cash from work-in-progress (WIP), not to mention the funds tied up in unbilled disbursements. Very often, small changes to the procedures for billing/cash collection can bring great (and potentially practice-saving) improvements. Our cash-flow assessment offers a structured way to look at your existing systems for managing cash-flow and your practice finances. We’ll diagnose the problem areas, summarised in a straightforward report, and work with you to find practical solutions.

Whether it’s someone experienced or more junior, full or part time, we can help to fill temporary gaps in your finance team, perhaps due to rapid growth, unexpected leavers, maternity leave etc. We have experience in using a wide range of different solicitors’ accounting systems, so it won’t take us long to get up to speed with yours. We’ll use our knowledge of your practice to find the right person for your needs and, unlike temporary staff you could appoint, we’ll be interested in our long term relationship with you so we’ll go the extra mile to be sure we get things right.

How often do you find that beneficiaries of an estate are pressing you to wind it up, but you’re not sure if there are any residual tax liabilities, or you simply don’t have time to prepare the estate accounts? Perhaps the beneficiaries of a trust want to see the latest trust accounts or forms R185, but your time’s taken up with more urgent client demands.

Through our specialist trusts and estates team, we’re able to help – giving you more valuable time to spend with your clients and allowing you to convert work-in-progress into fees. We have probably one of the largest trust teams in the region (administering more than 400 settlements) and considerable estates experience.

This strength of expertise, backed up by cost-effective IT usage, means we can help you and your clients by:

  • completing trust or estate accounts (in your firm’s style and logo), compiling tax returns and related forms and agreeing the tax liabilities
  • providing a day-to-day trust administration service
  • helping to set up trusts, trust reorganisations, appropriate funds to beneficiaries and the winding up of trusts tax efficiently
  • advising on capital gains and income tax planning during the administration period of an estate
  • providing a ‘health check’ to ensure that the deceased’s tax affairs are in order so that there are no unforeseen tax liabilities arising after the estate has been administered.

We will of course work with you to devise a bespoke package of support to suit your specific needs.

Our in-house VAT expert has the rare skill to make the complexities of VAT accessible and understandable, and it has been said on occasion, even interesting! Whether you want us to present VAT training sessions, answer your ad-hoc queries or give practical advice and support for surviving HMRC inspections and investigations, our VAT man’s expertise can prove invaluable.

Succession is a big issue for many of our professional practice clients. Considering this early and thinking beyond the obvious financial implications is critical. Examples of the help we can provide are:

  • planning the succession
  • valuing your practice
  • ensuring a tax-efficient approach
  • developing the next generation of managers, partners and leaders
  • handling partner under-performance
  • recruiting 'new blood'.

We can advise you on the potential benefits and pitfalls of incorporation and limited liability partnerships and help your partner team to agree the best way forward for your practice. Once a practice decision is made, we can guide and assist you every step of the way to make sure you cover all the angles and complete the change process as quickly as possible.

Our legal practice clients look to us for support in:

  • finding acquisition or merger targets
  • negotiating the purchase
  • preparing a business plan for your new venture
  • finding appropriate funding
  • restructuring – changing the financial base of your practice to generate the capacity for investment and to create working capital
  • planning a tax-efficient approach
  • undertaking due diligence on potential targets or merger candidates
  • post-acquisition integration.

If you want to move out or move on, then we can help you with:

  • preparing your practice for sale – looking at ways to maximise its value and make it easier to sell
  • finding a buyer
  • negotiating the sale
  • planning a tax-efficient approach
  • dealing with the accounting and tax compliance issues.