Solicitor Timing Issue

Sunny

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3,638
If it's not about the money, why are you complaining?

20 years ago, people used to send instruction to do things by letter, it would take a number of days and people expected that. These days, people expect a reply to email within a hour or two.

The solicitors simply have a lot of clients and can't action everything immediately. It doesn't mean they disrespect you or think of you as a lesser person. It simply means they have other client work that is ahead of yours and will get to it as soon as they can.
Client: Stephen, thanks a million for suggestion for that investment and confirming the account is set up with the fund manager. I have transferred 500k to your bank account today for you to make the subscription payment on my behalf. My bank has confirmed that you have received the money this morning.

Following Week
Client: Stephen, just wondering about that investment. It was T+ 1 settlement so would have expected the confirmation by now
Stephen: Oh sorry about that, I was up to my eyes. I will make the subscription payment for you today.
Client: Eh ok. But the special offer on the fund has ended. I will now to pay the €500 subscription fee.
Stephen: Ah sure these things happen.
Client: Because you were busy?
Stephen: You are not my only client
Client: I know that but I transferred 500k to your account last week and you just sat on 500k for days without telling me?
Stephen: Today is the first chance I got. I had client meetings.
Client: Oh silly me for complaining.
 

Sunny

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By the way, it is not an issue for the law society. I just think the 'I was too busy' line was completely unprofessional.
 

MOB

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1,127
Sorry but the 'too busy' line to action client funds is not acceptable. If cut offs are missed because of bank delays or client delays then fine. That happens and can be explained to a client. If a cut off is missed because the solicitors office is too busy, then it is not. I deal with client funds for a financial institution. If I miss a client instruction because 'I am too busy', do you think that's the end of it? I certainly don't leave the client 1c out of pocket. And yet for some reason, we seem to think that solicitors who could have millions of euro going through their accounts shouldn't be held to the same standards. If the solicitor came back and said we only got the funds on Friday afternoon after the cut off then fine. But to come back with the line of 'we were too busy with client meetings and we did it when we got a chance days later' is not acceptable.
A solicitor is not a financial institution, and the considerations are quite different.

Here is a perspective from a typical small office (one principal solicitor; 8 total staff)

a) When money lands in a client account, the office book-keeper must go online, note the lodgment and write it up in the accounts of the firm. It is bad practice for a solicitor to do this (much too easy for errors to creep in when you are doing book-keeping along with other tasks - though in a solo practitioner outfit, the sole practitioner may well have an hour of "do not disturb time each day for this task)

b) Once the lodgment has been written up (and not before), a payment out of the client account can be actioned - i.e. solicitor instructs book-keeper to set up payment.

c) if the destination bank account has not already been set up, there is a separate admin process to be gone through in order to do this (with a mortgage redemption, it is likely that the beneficiary account details are already set up in the solicitor's online banking ; nevertheless, many offices will have a policy that all beneficiary accounts should be phone-verified immediately before a fund transfer, regardless of the destination).

d) the office book-keeper can then set up a fund transfer out of the client account (in this case to the mortgage redemption account)

e) the solicitor with signing authority can then go online to authorise that payment.

There was a time when a solicitor would make a payment (at branch or by cheque\draft ) and then have the payment 'written up in the books'. That went out with the quill pen or it least it ought to have done. The online equivalent (do the fund transfer and then sort out the books) is just bad practice.

While it is not forbidden, it is a bad practice to set up a fund transfer without first having the funds (both the receipt and the payment out) written up in your practice accounts; (This is because the accounts system itself operates as a safeguard against accidentally making a payment of €102k out of client funds when you are only holding €101,995 to that client's credit - and it makes sense to always utilise that safeguard)

While it is likewise not forbidden, it is a bad idea for the responsible solicitor to do the book-keeping and\or the banking single handed. Far too much scope for error. Always better that any fund transfer be reviewed by two people (solicitor and book-keeper).

Most small solicitors offices do not need a full time book-keeper. In a 3-4 solicitor firm, lodgments to, and payments from the client account might come to between 5 and 20 transactions per day. So this might take up from 0.5 hrs up to 2 hours of a book-keeper's time.

A small solicitor's office does not maintain the staff resources to ensure that all client transactions can be written up and actioned on a near-real-time basis during working hours, or even on a same day basis. To do so would be wasteful and inefficient, and would certainly create such an additional overhead as would result in increased legal fees.
 

Sunny

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Messages
3,638
A solicitor is not a financial institution, and the considerations are quite different.

Here is a perspective from a typical small office (one principal solicitor; 8 total staff)

a) When money lands in a client account, the office book-keeper must go online, note the lodgment and write it up in the accounts of the firm. It is bad practice for a solicitor to do this (much too easy for errors to creep in when you are doing book-keeping along with other tasks - though in a solo practitioner outfit, the sole practitioner may well have an hour of "do not disturb time each day for this task)

b) Once the lodgment has been written up (and not before), a payment out of the client account can be actioned - i.e. solicitor instructs book-keeper to set up payment.

c) if the destination bank account has not already been set up, there is a separate admin process to be gone through in order to do this (with a mortgage redemption, it is likely that the beneficiary account details are already set up in the solicitor's online banking ; nevertheless, many offices will have a policy that all beneficiary accounts should be phone-verified immediately before a fund transfer, regardless of the destination).

d) the office book-keeper can then set up a fund transfer out of the client account (in this case to the mortgage redemption account)

e) the solicitor with signing authority can then go online to authorise that payment.

There was a time when a solicitor would make a payment (at branch or by cheque\draft ) and then have the payment 'written up in the books'. That went out with the quill pen or it least it ought to have done. The online equivalent (do the fund transfer and then sort out the books) is just bad practice.

While it is not forbidden, it is a bad practice to set up a fund transfer without first having the funds (both the receipt and the payment out) written up in your practice accounts; (This is because the accounts system itself operates as a safeguard against accidentally making a payment of €102k out of client funds when you are only holding €101,995 to that client's credit - and it makes sense to always utilise that safeguard)

While it is likewise not forbidden, it is a bad idea for the responsible solicitor to do the book-keeping and\or the banking single handed. Far too much scope for error. Always better that any fund transfer be reviewed by two people (solicitor and book-keeper).

Most small solicitors offices do not need a full time book-keeper. In a 3-4 solicitor firm, lodgments to, and payments from the client account might come to between 5 and 20 transactions per day. So this might take up from 0.5 hrs up to 2 hours of a book-keeper's time.

A small solicitor's office does not maintain the staff resources to ensure that all client transactions can be written up and actioned on a near-real-time basis during working hours, or even on a same day basis. To do so would be wasteful and inefficient, and would certainly create such an additional overhead as would result in increased legal fees.
I understand the difficulties and I am not comparing solicitor firms to banks but no other business would be allowed to hold onto hundreds of thousands of Euro or even millions and be processed when the solicitors firm 'gets a chance'. In the example of the OP, she has confirmed that the solicitor had the funds on lunchtime Friday the 6th. Lets say we are dealing with different banks so the cut off time is 3.30. That only gives a window of 2.5 hours so I can understand there might not be time to process it that day. What I don't understand is the solicitor not making the payment on Monday the 9th at all. They waited until Tuesday the 10th and EBS received the money on the 11th. Hanging onto the funds half day Friday and a full day Monday because 'they were too busy' is not right. It seems like solicitors get to decide on their own schedule when funds can be processed and transferred according to their own workload with everyone else left guessing.

You mention a small firm only having 5-20 transactions a day. If they are mortgage related, that could still be anything from €1m to €10m a day going through solicitors client accounts. When it comes to amount of money, I really don't want to be hearing from a solicitor that they will deal with the funds when they 'get a chance'. And the OP has to go asking for an explanation rather than the solicitor having the respect for the client to say 'sorry, there was a delay on our side due to xxxx but we transferred the funds on the 10th'...The OP is just treated as a nuisance for even asking the question and is then advised to forget about it because it only cost her €120 and these things happen....
 

SBarrett

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3,202
Client: Stephen, thanks a million for suggestion for that investment and confirming the account is set up with the fund manager. I have transferred 500k to your bank account today for you to make the subscription payment on my behalf. My bank has confirmed that you have received the money this morning.

Following Week
Client: Stephen, just wondering about that investment. It was T+ 1 settlement so would have expected the confirmation by now
Stephen: Oh sorry about that, I was up to my eyes. I will make the subscription payment for you today.
Client: Eh ok. But the special offer on the fund has ended. I will now to pay the €500 subscription fee.
Stephen: Ah sure these things happen.
Client: Because you were busy?
Stephen: You are not my only client
Client: I know that but I transferred 500k to your account last week and you just sat on 500k for days without telling me?
Stephen: Today is the first chance I got. I had client meetings.
Client: Oh silly me for complaining.
For repeatedly spelling my name wrong, you are going to the bottom on my "To do" list ;)



Steven
www.bluewaterfp.ie
 

MOB

Frequent Poster
Messages
1,127
What I don't understand is the solicitor not making the payment on Monday the 9th at all. They waited until Tuesday the 10th and EBS received the money on the 11th. Hanging onto the funds half day Friday and a full day Monday because 'they were too busy' is not right.
It could be something as simple as that the book-keeper was already gone home on the Friday, and that the payment was not written up until Monday ( a necessary pre-requisite to setting up\actioning the payment out).

In my own case, I am a sole practitioner and sole signatory for client account transactions. If I am away for the day, then it is unlikely that I will be able to make the payment on that day. If it is planned, I will make special arrangements, and often have to. Most practices will require two signatories for any client account transfer - so this doubles the chances of someone not being available.


You mention a small firm only having 5-20 transactions a day. If they are mortgage related, that could still be anything from €1m to €10m a day going through solicitors client accounts.
No - that would not be normal. I accept, by the way, that this sort of revenue would certainly justify maintaining sufficient staff resources to process payments on the day, or within one day. However, for most small practices, the throughput of funds will be much smaller (the client account is used for payments small and large).

As a very rough and ready measure - - most solicitors no longer charge anything close to 1% of transaction value - but if they did, even €1m per day would translate to professional fee income of €2.6 million per annum - well outside the reach of most small firms. Even at 0.4%, you would have fee income of over €1m (I wish....)
 
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