In a piece first published by The Institute of Legal Finance & Management, Totum Finance Consultant Carolyn Beckford Balogun takes a look at the role of Legal Cashier and the vital part it plays in the law firm finance team.
Legal cashiers don’t have to wait long for a job to come along. It’s one of those roles for which there is always demand – and if you have experience of working in a law firm, so much the better. You will have your choice of firm/team across a wide number of different locations. It’s also a position of critical importance, not only delivering the transactional processes that ensure a law firm’s efficiency in performance, but also safeguarding a firm (and its clients) by ensuring compliance with Accounting Rules.
As ever, it’s harder to break into legal cashiering with no prior experience. But it is possible, with many graduates applying for entry-level cashier roles that will then lead on into central finance positions. Some counter the lack of experience by entering into an ‘office accounts’ role in which they will be responsible for processing all the office accounts payable, from expenses to supplier bills. But they will then be trained/developed to move up to take on the more complex role of client accounts too, for which a good understanding of SRA rules is required.
For others, legal cashiering is a career choice in itself. They may advance from a relatively junior role at around £28k to one that has supervisory responsibilities (Senior or Head Cashier) commanding a salary of nearly £50k for managing more complex requirements. A role we recently placed, for example, was a legal cashier for a company that supports the back-office requirements of many of its law firm clients – the legal cashier took on a consultative role, managing the accounts for several law firms, requiring both excellence in accounts processing and relationship management.
While legal cashiering may primarily be a back-office role, more senior roles come with the responsibility of administering client funds and collecting fees that often brings them into contact with both fee-earners and clients. Done well, it is also a role that plays a critical part in ensuring the transactional performance of a firm, contributing enormously to a firm’s efficient cash flow.
Specific training in Legal Cashiering is not essential for applying for Legal Cashier jobs, but we do find that Diplomas – for example, the Legal Cashier Dip Qualification offered by the ILFM – are highly respected and some of our clients will list it among job-description preferences. The diploma offers training in bookkeeping for legal finance professionals as well as training in legal finance compliance & accounts rules. This can help plug the gap where the candidate has not yet managed to gain much experience in the workplace.
Typically a Legal Cashier will report into a senior manager in the finance team. Responsibilities will vary depending on the size, structure, and type of firm, but the following is a fairly typical example of duties that a likely to be covered:
- Receiving and making payments for both the office and client accounts (including inter-office transfers, interest calculations, receipts, payments, etc). An entry-level role may start with a focus office accounts, taking on client accounts with further training/experience.
- Processing invoices and ensuring all payment requests are correctly authorised (including liaison with partners as necessary)
- Making payments to suppliers and liaising with them re invoice and statement queries
- Preparing and submitting VAT returns
- Processing disbursements (expenses paid on behalf of clients, including court fees)
- Checking for errors or compliance breaches
- Liaising with the billing department, credit control and partners to deal with any cash receipt queries and any unallocated cash promptly
- Return of funds to client with the correct authorisation and confirmation of correct bank details
- Keeping accounting records up to date – ensuring all documentation is filed on time and in full.
Another key part of the Legal Cashier role is experience of the various systems in use to manage accounts – whether its Chrome River, Elite, Aderant, or so on. Some roles may require some proficiency in a variety of systems with firms ideally looking for candidates who can hit the ground running. In practice, this shouldn’t necessarily put you off, however. We have placed candidates who have quickly got up to speed with new systems.
We find that those candidates that do well in these roles are those that are process-driven, have excellent attention to detail, are highly accurate and comfortable with managing high volumes of work to tough deadlines. Good communication skills are also extremely helpful in liaising with both partners and suppliers.
The legal cashier role is an incredibly stable career option in which candidates can build impressive expertise to lead in their field. Whether it’s a stepping stone to other central finance roles or a career in its own right, it is a role that brings the reward of knowing you are delivering vital services to the good functioning of your business.