Chambers financial administration: what do or should your clerks do for you?
When you become a tenant or join a new set of chambers it should be made clear to you how your clerks and fee clerks operate. If in doubt, speak to a junior tenant who has been in practice for a year, a former pupil supervisor or another member of Chambers you feel happy approaching.
When a brief fee has been agreed for a piece of work you or your clerk should keep a written record of the date when that agreement was reached and who agreed that fee. Be clear about the terms on which the work has been agreed (see rC22.1 of the BSB Handbook): you may need to refer to them later.
Generally speaking your clerks will bill your work for you. This is dependent on you reporting your hours or the completion of a piece of work to the clerks. Some chambers have a form that you complete; in others it is incumbent on you to tell your clerks (either by email or in person). It is important to keep your clerks up-to-date so that they can bill work on your behalf.
In any event you must keep records supporting the fees that you are charging to comply with rC88 of the BSB Handbook.
If, and when (!), solicitors or other clients do not pay promptly your clerks may chase the payments on your behalf. This is usually the role of a specific fees clerk. They will contact the client at certain intervals to chase up payments.
If you have a problem with cash flow and aged debt your fees clerk will be the person to speak to. You can discuss with them the current situation and they will usually be happy to let you know what is going on – as long as you don’t pester them too much! See also the Outstanding Fees section in the Toolkit.
When money comes in your clerks may pay it into your bank account on your behalf. If you are paid by cheque then it is important to make sure that your clerks have your paying-in book. In other chambers, barristers pay in their own cheques, and it is up to you to make sure that you get to the bank. Sometimes things happen: you may lose a cheque or it may be refused by the bank (sometimes a signature is not recognised). Identify the most accommodating clerk to speak to and they will help you out with this.
Your clerks will also send out receipts to clients as necessary. In some chambers you have to sign a receipt (for example to confirm that you have received the cheque). It is important that you complete any documentation promptly so that it can be returned to the client.
Your clerks (and chambers) should keep a record of the work that has been done and billed and payments received on an electronic diary system. In some chambers you can access this system yourself to get reports on work done, payments received and aged debt. This information may be needed for tax purposes. You should find out what the system is in your chambers.