We recognise that not every legal firm needs the same level of support from their professional advisers. At Wilkins Kennedy we take time to understand the needs of the firms that we act for and tailor our approach to provide the technical skills and practical advice required, in the most cost effective manner possible.
The legal sector has undergone significant change in recent years, with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s ongoing revisions to compliance covering both the Handbook, Code of Conduct and Accounts Rules, plus changes made by the regulator to make the sector “more competitive”.
At Wilkins Kennedy we have successfully worked with the legal profession for many years and are one of the leading accountancy firms acting for law practices. Our team of specialists is on hand to help you make sense of the relevant regulations, meet your obligations, and support you with the growth and strategic direction of your firm.
We currently act for a number of solicitors, including both national and local firms, and we and strive to keep ahead of new developments so that we are able to advise on issues as they emerge and impact on the legal sector.
Through our regular WK Law seminar programme we offer a range of seminars throughout the year specifically aimed at addressing topics which are relevant to those operating within the legal profession. These seminars have proved to be extremely popular and provide an alternative and refreshing alternative to training. We also produce regular e-briefs and also highlight issues affecting the sector on our WK Law Linkedin group.
We have developed accounting and support services that are specifically tailored for our solicitor clients. These services include:
- Preparation of the annual SRA Accounts Rules Accountant's Report
- Annual statutory audit and accounts preparation
- Tax and financial planning
- Strategic planning and succession planning
- Managing mergers, acquisitions and de-mergers
- Remuneration planning for partners and employees
- Provision of tailored in-house training courses to assist with SRA training requirements
- Advising on business structuring and incorporation
- Partnership capitalisation
- Lexcel consultancy
SRA Accounts Rules compliance
The SRA Accounts Rules (SAR) were updated in 2011 by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and have gone through significant revisions in 2014 and 2015, with more detailed changes planned in 2018. The primary objective of the SAR is to keep client money safe, and in conjunction with the SRA Handbook, protect both the firm itself and consumers of legal services.
Wilkins Kennedy undertake annual SAR compliance reviews and compile Accountants’ Reports (AR1) to help firms meet their regulatory responsibilities and submit the AR1 to the Solicitors Regulation Authority where appropriate. We can also advise on the operation of client accounts to ensure that potential breaches are minimised or eliminated.
Wilkins Kennedy have also been actively involved in responding to the SRA consultations in 2014, 2015 and 2016 surrounding the future of the SAR, and will be monitoring the position to ensure we can advise our clients accordingly when the expected final set of changes are implemented by the SRA in 2018.
We see the annual audit and accounts preparation as more than a statutory requirement. It provides an opportunity to conduct a comprehensive and objective appraisal of the financial controls and issues impacting your organisation, following which recommendations can then be made to help improve efficiency and profitability.
By taking a holistic view of your business, we are able to work with you to highlight areas of risk, both current and in the future.
Our tried and tested audit and accounts approach involves detailed planning and communication with you and your staff. This way we can ensure that we identify any major considerations at an early stage.
Effective communication with management and the accounting function also means that we are able to deliver your audit and accounts on time having regard to your commitments and reporting requirements.
Our work also includes advice on how to deal with recent changes to UK Accounting Standards, including FRS101 and FRS 102, and how they impact on the disclosure of the firm’s results, and perhaps more importantly, the profitability of the firm.
Regardless of how a law firm is structured, we provide a full tax compliance service covering the completion of tax returns for both the individual owners and the business itself.
We can also help with tax planning advice to ensure that tax liabilities are legitimately minimised, and ensure that the tax planning strategies are put in place to meet the commercial objectives of the firm, and the personal objectives of the individual partners or directors.
We also have a specialist VAT advisory team who can assist with this increasingly complex area of tax, and the VAT issues that directly affect professional services firms.
We work closely with our clients to identify their strategic goals. Having identified these goals, we then help firms formulate business and action plans, including identifying relevant key performance indicators so that they can measure progress in meeting those goals.
Succession planning is proving a key concern for owners of legal firms in the current climate. It is crucial that partners/directors have rewarding, tax-efficient exit strategies in place that also ensure the firm continues successfully after their retirement. We have expertise in this field and can advise on retirement planning and exit/continuity strategies.
In what is becoming an increasingly competitive market, with new entrants to the sector, most firms continue to look at potential merger and acquisition opportunities in order to either grow their business or solidify their position in the local marketplace. This type of activity has also led to internal changes such as individual offices or divisions to spin off or demerge.
We believe that these transactions need to be carefully planned and managed in order to ensure that they are effective for all concerned and are carried out with the minimum of disruption. Wilkins Kennedy can help with due diligence, tax and financial planning, identifying and helping overcome areas of difference, such as internal procedures and IT systems. Our specialists on the WK Law team have a wealth of first-hand experience in this field.
Recruiting and retaining the right partners and staff are key to any firm’s success in the legal sector. We can help with advising on reward structures for partners and staff that are tailored to your circumstances and needs. We can also advise on the most tax-efficient ways of extracting remuneration from the business
Wilkins Kennedy can provide both in-house, and external, courses which are tailored to meet either individual, departmental, or firm-wide training requirements. These specific courses can enable training requirements to be met in line with the SRA’s “continuing competence” approach to training which came into effect from 1 November 2016.
Popular courses include SRA Accounts Rules updates for fee-earners and Capital allowances updates for in-house Property teams, but we can tailor individual courses as necessary.
Over the years the business model adopted to operate as a legal practice has changed significantly to encompass unincorporated partnerships, limited liability partnerships (LLP), and limited companies. By spending time discussing your business model and plans for succession we can advise on what is the right structure for your business. We can also assist in advising on any revisions, or the creation of new partnership/LLP/shareholders agreements. This could include advising on entry and exit arrangements, capital contributions, and property ownership.
A number of law firms have now chosen to incorporate as a limited company, and whilst full incorporation can bring benefits for firms, there are also some practical issues to consider. We can help identify the advantages and disadvantages with you, and if incorporation is the right route for your firm, help you to achieve that status as smoothly as possible.
Cashflow and the availability of capital are major limiting factors on partners’ ability to draw down profits. We can help you identify areas where there is excessive lock-up of debtors and work in progress, formulate and implement strategies to deal with lock-up, and help manage your partnership capital to best advantage
We believe benchmarking is a key area in assessing how your firm is doing, both in terms of judging against competitors, and against your own internal goals and objectives.
We calculate key performance indicators for our clients and their peer groups, using our own internal database and through established sector benchmarking surveys. We then compare results to help our clients identify critical areas for improvement as part of their strategic planning, and assist with formulating and implementing improvement programmes.
A number of our specialist team are accredited Lexcel consultants. If your firm is considering applying for Lexcel accreditation, we can work with you and help you to ensure that your systems, procedures, documentation and processes are ready for evaluation.