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Andrew Hawkins Feb-08 2024

Trustworthy Handling of Funds in Legal Services: A New Standard for Security and Integrity

The announcement of the 'consumer protection' review by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has drawn further attention to the urgent need for enhanced trust and security in the handling of client funds.

Andrew Hawkins responds to this news and reflects on the importance of partnering with Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulated firms, like Shieldpay, to ensure the trustworthy and efficient management the financial transactions that are inherent in use cases such as Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A), Group Claims, and other complex Paying Agent and Escrow scenarios. 
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Trust is the cornerstone of Corporate Legal Services.

Clients entrust law firms with not just their legal issues but also with financial transactions that often represent significant milestones or critical junctures in their businesses and lives. The associated high-value payments require an impeccable level of integrity, security, and confidentiality, given the potential risks involved. This level of trust is not just about the legal advice provided but extends to the entire handling of the transaction, including the safe and efficient movement of funds.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) published its consumer protection review yesterday that scrutinies the mechanisms of consumer protection within legal services, underscoring the significance of trust. This publication serves as a timely reminder of the critical role trust plays in the legal sector. The review makes specific reference to the £60m of clients’ money that went missing from the law firm Axiom Ince due to suspected dishonesty and highlights that the SRA carried out more than twice as many interventions last year as the year before. One of the options the SRA have stated they will explore is restricting firms from holding client money altogether and will explore different approaches to holding client money with other regulators and escrow account providers such as Shieldpay.

In this context, working with an Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulated payment services institution such as Shieldpay is not merely a regulatory compliance checkbox but a strategic decision that leverages the domain expertise of firms specialising in the secure and compliant handling of funds. Regulatory oversight ensures that these institutions maintain the highest standards of security, confidentiality, and accountability, thereby extending an additional layer of trust and assurance to the firms’ clients.

Shieldpay are unique in our exclusive focus on the legal services sector in the UK and therefore embody the ethos of leveraging expertise for enhanced trust in financial transactions relating to legal matters. Having processed billions of pounds of payments over recent years for many of the top law firms in the UK, we have considerable experience dealing with substantial financial transactions that are inherent in areas such as Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A), Group Claims, and other complex Paying Agent and Escrow scenarios.

Shieldpay's product is elegantly simple. We first ‘Verify’ the trustworthiness of the parties involved in a transaction by carrying out robust KYC/KYB checks. We then receive and ‘Hold’ the funds in safeguarded accounts as required, either at Tier 1 banks or with banks that hold their funds at the Bank of England, ensuring the highest levels of security and compliance. Finally we safely and efficiently ‘Disburse’ the funds to payees, whether domestically or across borders and between currencies. This triumvirate of Verify, Hold and Disburse ensures the integrity of the transaction from start to finish.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority SRA's review of consumer protection highlights the evolving landscape of consumer protection in legal services, a domain where Shieldpay is at the forefront of innovation and trust. Our commitment to security, confidentiality, and efficiency makes us a trusted partner for law firms looking to navigate the complexities of high-value transactions with confidence.

Shieldpay will be joining the forthcoming webinars and consultation briefings set out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority , and will continue to share insights for those looking to understand what comes next, the opportunities and the implications for your firm. Together, we can set new standards for trust and efficiency in the legal services sector, ensuring that your transactions are handled with the utmost care and professionalism.

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Shieldpay is the payments partner for the legal services, working with Top 200 law firms in the UK to support the secure management of client funds. To learn more about our Escrow, Paying Agent and Third-Party Managed Account services and how they simplify complex transactions, manage and protect high value funds, and solve compliance complexity, get in touch with us. 
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Andrew Hawkins

Andrew Hawkins is the CEO of UK and Europe for Shieldpay

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