Throughout the country, money sits unclaimed and dormant in solicitors' client accounts. Sums range from a few pence to thousands of pounds.
The Access to Justice Foundation (ATJF) is encouraging firms to donate these accounts to help fund vital legal advice services in the local community. Independently, the sums of unclaimed client accounts can seem trivial, but collectively they can make a significant difference to the most vulnerable and most disadvantaged members of society.
These unclaimed balances place a huge administrative burden on firms as all such accounts must be reported to the firm’s auditors on an annual basis. However, these balances can be donated to charity (without SRA approval for amounts under £500), provided that reasonable attempts have been made to contact the original owner. For any firms wishing to donate amounts over £500, the ATJF provides lots of useful guidance and written indemnities as approved and required by the SRA.
All of the money the Foundation raises goes towards helping those in need of legal help but unable to afford it through grants to local advice services including Law Centres and Citizens Advice Bureaux. Without funding and support from the Access to Justice Foundation, many of these vital services would either be unable to continue their valuable work or would have to limit their services. By supporting the “It’s Not Just Peanuts” campaign, and donating unclaimed client balances to the Foundation, law firms can ensure inactive money is used to support vulnerable people in their region.
The ATJF have already raised a fantastic amount of money with help and support from firms and donors across the country, but there are still so many legal organisations that need support. If your firm has unclaimed account balances and would like to donate them, you can find more information on the ATJF's website.