Dormant client cash supports law bursaries

Topics: Legal Education

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Global giant Dentons has used money from dormant client accounts to support a new bursary scheme for future lawyers.

The firm has donated £48,000 to help fund three undergraduate bursaries at Queen Mary University of London’s School of Law.

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According to the university’s announcement, the donation was possible as a result of rules approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority allowing firms to pay dormant client balances to charities of their choice where the rightful owner cannot be traced.

SRA guidance states that solicitors can withdraw residual client balances of £500 or less from the client account provided they establish the owner’s identity, make adequate attempts to ascertain the proper destination of the money, pay the funds to charity, record the steps taken and keep a central register.

Residual client balances above £500 can be donated to charity on written authorisation of the SRA. The guidance states that the SRA ’may impose a condition that the money is paid to a charity which gives an indemnity against any legitimate claim subsequently made for the sum received’. 

Firms still need to apply to the SRA should they wish to withdraw money from the client account that is not intended for charity, such as to pay money into the office account.

The university’s announcement states that Dentons’ funding, supported by some matched funding from the law school, will provide three bursaries of £6,500 a year over three years to eligible undergraduate students from local boroughs.

The bursary students will be ‘expected’ to volunteer at Poplaw, Dentons’ weekly free legal advice clinic to people in Poplar, east London. Students from the school currently help the firm’s volunteers at the clinic every Tuesday evening.

The bursary students will also be ‘encouraged’ to apply for the firm’s summer placement scheme.

Dentons’ UK managing partner Brandon Ransley (pictured) said the firm had a ‘longstanding commitment to supporting the communities in which we work and live’.

Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas, head of the School of Law, said the bursary scheme would provide ‘much-needed support’ to students from low-income families from the local community.

Readers' comments (3)

  • £48,000 not returned to clients?

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  • Yes I agree. £48,000 seems a great deal. I've just spent about 2 days trawling through my old balances, writing to clients, sending them cheques and stamps for small amounts or dealing with it where genuine disbursements hadn't been posted to try to avoid a comment in my next SAR report, and all for about £500 in total.

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  • £48k is likely to be a drop in the ocean compared to the larger firms who could have money going back very many years. It is good that the SRA is allowing firms to dispose of the money in an appropriate way - obviously once a search has been conducted. However, firms really shouldn't be holding this money in the first place. Make it a condition of file closure that money is returned and the file be closed in a reasonable period or something. It really is outrageous that firms don't have this discipline - it's not their money after all.

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