All law firms and professional companies, under the Barristers (Accounts and Records) Rules 1976, shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any financial year deliver to the Secretary an accountant's report in respect of the financial year next preceding that year for review and approval by Bar Council.
Members are reminded that the Accountant’s Report is an independent report by an accountant who is not the same person as the bookkeeper or accountant who created the books and records in the first place, or who maintains those books and records. The reporting accountant must also be a member of ICAB and in conducting the statutory review of a law firm’s accounts, books and records, is acting as a ‘public accountant’ under legislation governing accountants.
As a reminder to all sole practitioners, law firms and professional companies, under Rule 8 (1) of the Barristers (Accounts and Records) Rules 1976, "Every barrister shall, not later than six months after the commencement of any financial year deliver to the Secretary an accountant's report in respect of the financial year next preceding that year." (Emphasis added).
It is imperative that once a year end has been established, the Barristers Accounts are due no later than 6 months after your year-end date. For example, if the firm’s year end is February 2018, the report will be due no later than August 2018.
Bar Council notes that the Bar Act does not grant the Bar Council a discretion when it comes to accommodating delinquent attorneys who do not submit their Barristers Accountant’s report within 6 months of their year-end in compliance with the Rules. Requests for extensions due to illness or other unforeseen circumstances may still be considered. Bar Council will write to delinquent firms advising them to cease and desist practicing. Bar Council has and will enforce this requirement, and suspend the Practicing Certificates for all attorneys working within the firm. Bar Council will follow up with a complaint processed to the Professional Conduct Committee should the firm continue to practice.
Law firms are reminded that even if the firm does not operate Trust Accounts, other reporting is covered in the Barristers Accountants report submission. Items such as law firm details, the names of Barristers, Attorneys, Partners and Directors of the firm are included. The review also covers invoicing procedures, recording generally, posting, receipts, preservation of records and bank statements. Banks do charge for holding trust accounts, however the view is that it is a necessary burden that the law firm should reasonably expect as an on-going operating expense.
In an effort to assist firms in keeping track of when the report is due, the Secretary upon receiving Bar Council approval that the report has been approved will contact the representative of the firm noting the same. She will then set the due date for the next report to be submitted. It is important to note that the onus is on the firm to be in compliance with the rules, however Bar Council hopes that this friendly reminder will assist firms with future submissions which for now appears to be working well.