Julian Bryan represents Quill Pinpoint
The challenge for small practices
If you’re a partner in a small practice or a sole practitioner, the challenges of business management take many forms.
First, there’s the likelihood that you’re managing all areas of your practice on top of earning fees. The cost of employing dedicated staff for specialised tasks such as legal cashiering can be prohibitive in terms of recruitment, training, salary and office space fees. Continued financial pressures on the economy as a whole, and solicitors in particular, mean that many small firms struggle to meet the ongoing commitment to direct and indirect costs of cashier employment.
Aside from the financial implications of employing cashiers in-house, actually finding qualified bookkeepers is challenging in itself as there’s currently a shortage in supply of quality legal cashiers.
Subsequently, the responsibility for your practice’s bookkeeping falls on you instead.
In the long term, performing everything single-handedly distracts you from vital fee earning activity. The less time you spend earning fees, the less profitable your business will be. There’s also business development. If you don’t nurture and grow your client base, you’ll experience a decreased demand for fee earning support. Again, the net result is lower profit margins.
That said, it’s essential to keep on top of your bookkeeping as your business depends upon a regular, constant cash flow. This presents your second challenge. Late bill production or delayed credit control can compromise your cash flow. However, you may lack the time and expertise to do the task justice, thus driving you dangerously into the red.
Third, there’s the issue of compliance. An accurate set of accounts is essential to satisfy regulators’ guidelines, avoiding expensive and reputation-damaging fines and penalties for late or inaccurate submissions.
Outcomes-focused regulation has introduced an increased number of regulatory and compliance responsibilities. Now, not only do you need to comply with defined rules, you also need proper reporting tools to facilitate good financial management control. This may be impossible to you, as a small firm, without skilled cashiering resources to support you.
That’s where outsourcing can help, to ease your workload, leaving you free to concentrate on earning fees and other business critical functions, without the exorbitant initial outlay and ongoing overheads associated with employing in-house personnel.
How does outsourcing work?
Outsourcing is the process whereby you contract an existing business function externally to an independent supplier, purchased as a service, thus ceasing to perform the function internally.
As experts in legal accounts, our virtual cashiering service, Pinpoint Interactive, is a way of alleviating the burden of the heavily regulated back office accounting function. We help you to address the burning issues of time management, cash flow and compliance by providing a centrally located experienced team of cashiers to manage your accounts through cloud-based software.
This is a simplified 5-step process to outsourcing your cashiering to us:-
1. We recruit high calibre legal cashiers from personal recommendations, select agencies and direct applications. Our recruitment procedure is stringent and all references are taken up prior to the start of their employment.
We have an annual intake of trainees, for whom we created a tailored training programme, thus addressing the skills gap in the market. In association with the Employer Based Training Accreditation (EBTA) group at Foundation Degree Forward (FDF), we successfully linked with the University of Chester to develop a scheme whereby those who complete training to a pre-defined standard receive an industry-recognised Professional Certificate in Legal Account Management award.
Our trainees work hand-in-hand with experienced team members to tap into their extensive knowledge of legal account management and develop their own professional skills accordingly while gaining a formal qualification in the process.
Additionally, we support other industry qualifications, including the Institute of Legal Finance & Management, and pay our cashiers’ annual subscription fees.
2. Successful candidates undergo a rigorous 4-week induction period where they learn to use our software, understand procedures and ensure they meet our very high standards.
Our legal cashiers follow a continuous personal development programme. We strongly advocate staff development and have a competency framework in place to help identify specific training and mentoring needs.
Our employees feel valued by the investment we make in developing their professional skills which greatly improves their career progression opportunities, both inside and outside the company. Our Investors in People accreditation is acknowledgement of our commitment to progressing and harnessing the skills and talents of our staff.
3. You’re assigned a named legal cashier from our 50-strong team with supervisor, escalation procedures and absence cover arrangements.
With primary concentration on the personal client-cashier relationship, our cashiers develop a close one-to-one relationship with you, operating as an extension to your practice. This is good for you as it provides always-available, friendly assistance.
It’s good for our cashiers too, because they have a wealth of knowledge around them to use as a sounding board for any issues encountered. They also have holiday and sickness cover, making the return to work from any leave of absence much more manageable.
4. Our Quill Interactive software is included in the service which is endorsed by the Law Society and has won the ILFM Solicitors’ Software Users Award in the last two consecutive ceremonies.
The system uses a mechanism of electronic chits to send transaction requests from partners, fee earners and practice managers to cashiers securely across the internet. On a daily basis, you record case-related costs such as fee earner time and disbursements. Because the software is hosted, you have the ability to work remotely, and you’re ensured of business continuity with uninterrupted support and cloud-stored secure data.
The same process can be performed by post or fax, if preferred.
5. Pinpoint Interactive legal cashiers then undertake all aspects of cashiering once daily e-chits are completed for full accounts handling. Supported by read-only access to relevant bank accounts, the cashiers are able to log and reconcile transactions, with bank statements submitted to you by post, fax or they’re scanned and emailed. Our team manages both client and office account ledgers for better credit control.
The service includes regular legal cashier-generated reports indicating your account status and highlighting anomalies or late arrival of money for remedial action. You’re notified of potential and actual accounts breaches which your cashier will discuss and rectify with you, keeping your financial status above board.
Not only do the reports act as a safety net in this way, they also display a clear picture of past and present performance, to forecast and plan ahead with precision.
The whole operation is closely monitored by a legal accounts management team for guaranteed accuracy and improved operational control.
With the accounting aspects of the system kept up to date, you can use the software to manage progress on matters, and review financial and management information. Secure access can be gained from any device, anywhere in the world, at any time.
What are the benefits of outsourcing?
To put it succinctly, the advantages gained from outsourcing your cashiering, particularly by small practices, are numerous and can help secure the future of your business.
You don’t have the responsibility of handing your own legal accounts which saves you time, allowing you the freedom to focus on fee earning and development to achieve higher profits.
Equally important to your bottom line, there are significant financial savings of an outsourced as opposed to in-house structure, with lower manpower requirements and accompanying IT set up. Our pay-as-you-go pricing model correlates directly to your fee earning activity.
With an increased focus on continuity of service provision, as stipulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, continuous cashier support and 24/7 access to your accounts and matter data means no more worries about unexpected staff absences or disruptive IT failures for effective business continuity and disaster recovery planning.
The service is regulatory compliance assured, adhering to the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules and introducing tighter risk management, improved cash flow, and streamlined annual accounting, auditing and inspections.
In saying all this, we recognise that change is difficult but the negative effects of not changing can be extremely detrimental, especially if the traditional in-house approach to legal accounts management is causing difficulties for your business.
We can provide a safe, cost-effective framework in which you can operate and flourish commercially.
Julian Bryan is Managing Director of Quill Pinpoint having joined the company last year.
Quill Pinpoint is the UK’s largest outsourced legal cashiering provider and a Law Society recognised supplier with over 34 years of experience supplying software and outsourcing services to both independent solicitors and multi-disciplinary law firms of all sizes. Our award winning hosted software combined with our exceptional knowledge and expertise in Solicitors’ Accounts Rules (SAR) and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) guidelines provides your practice with the ultimate practice management and legal accounts solution. Quill Pinpoint is the first choice for many new and established legal practices and over 3,000 users.