What are unclaimed client accounts?
Unclaimed or dormant client accounts are sums of money which lie dormant in the client account of many firms of solicitors, often untouched for years.
If you have made reasonable attempts to find the client to return this money, but have not had success, you can donate these funds to charity. Whilst this can range from a few pence to thousands of pounds, to put it in perspective, in the UK there are an estimated 500,000 unclaimed client accounts worth approximately £500m, so you see it all adds up!
What can you do with them?
We are encouraging firms to donate their dormant client account funds to the Access to Justice Foundation to help us continue our valuable work in supporting the legal advice sector and the vulnerable people who rely on these services.
On their own the sums may seem trivial, but collectively they can make a significant difference in supporting access to justice for those in need.
Why should you donate them to the Access to Justice Foundation?
At the Access to Justice Foundation we believe that no one should be denied access to justice. Our mission is to increase the provision of support available to vulnerable people requiring access to the law through strategic grant making and supporting the advice sector.
We are a national organisation, working closely with a network of seven Legal Support Trusts around England and Wales to ensure valuable resources can be targeted exactly where they are most needed. We also work in partnership with the Litigant in Person Support Strategy (LIPSS) to support the increasing number of litigants in person so they know what help is available to them.
In 2019, we distributed a total of £1,909,822 in grants to support free legal help for those in need, which included funds donated from dormant client accounts.
For vulnerable people, having access to the legal advice they need when they have nowhere else to turn makes an enormous difference to their lives, helping to reduce debt, poverty, and suffering.
Are there any risks?
The Foundation can provide the relevant indemnity to repay your firm if the client resurfaces, so there is no risk to you or your firm.
Amounts of up to £500 can be donated to charity without the need for approval as long as SRA guidelines are followed.
Amounts of £500 and over can also be donated to charity, the Access to Justice Foundation can provide a written indemnity for all unclaimed client account fund donations.
If your client resurfaces you can ask us for the funds back, making your donation completely risk free!
Help us spread the word!
For your finance manager, the money sitting dormant in client accounts can be an administrative burden. Make their life easier by sharing this blog and letting them know that by donating these funds to the Access to Justice Foundation means they no longer need to spend so much time analysing these amounts and explaining these to auditors annually!
But don’t just take our word for it:
“The ILFM has supported the Access to Justice Foundation’s “It’s not Just Peanuts” campaign for over 7 years. The dilemma over how to deal with residual client balances has always been a concern for our members. To be able to redirect these funds to such a great charity and benefit those in need, whilst still meeting compliance regulations is a perfect solution. The ILFM are pleased to be able to partner with the Access to Justice Foundation by promoting their events and charitable causes and sharing their success stories.”
Tim Kidd, Chief Executive, ILFM
The ILFM has been hugely supportive of the Foundation and we would like to say a thank you to the members who have donated their unclaimed client accounts to help this important cause.
How else can you get involved?
You can also help support access to justice by signing up to our virtual fundraising challenge Go the Extra Mile for Justice to help us raise £200,000 for regional advice services by the end of 2020. For more information on how to take part or to start your own challenge, visit: atjf.org.uk/go-the-extra-mile-for-justice