Attorneys’ Trust Accounts

It is Attorneys’ Trust Account audit season. Is your assurance methodology effective and covering all auditing requirements, or is it only testing compliance with the Rules?

Compliance will not guarantee you finding an error and you have to consider your business risk as a firm and be sure you are able to do adequate work to find any possible error.

It is therefore critical that your audit work covers all requirements of ISAE 3000 (Revised), which is derived from ISA principles, to ensure that your methodology is appropriate and addresses all relevant risks – including fraud risks.

The audit approach

The Legal Practice Act and the Rules for the Attorneys’ Profession sets the scene, BUT assurance engagements on an Attorneys’ Trust Accounts performed by registered auditors also need to comply with certain audit basics as set out in ISAE 3000 (Revised).

The audit approach must combine both the compliance and auditing principles in a simple yet effective approach in the most efficient way possible. The LEAF audit methodology for Attorneys’ Trust Accounts achieves exactly that.

Knowledge of the business and planning is key

Without understanding properly how the attorneys manage their attorneys’ trust accounts, you may miss the point completely.

It is therefore very important to gain this understanding in order to properly identify and assess risk, specifically including fraud risk.

Tips for fieldwork

Instead of just blindly performing the required procedures in the IRBA Guide, rather consider combining some of these required steps to achieve better audit efficiency whilst still achieving the required objectives.

Perform tests of controls where possible. Not only will it add value to the client, but it will give you a much better understanding of how the trust account is really managed.

Document audit evidence in a way that someone else can understand and re-perform it. Describe exactly what supporting documentation was inspected, who was interviewed on what date, how and what was observed, etc. “Inspected supporting documentation” doesn’t say what you actually looked at and what you tested for.

Concluding and reporting

Remember to apply auditing principles here again to ensure that the conclusion is appropriately justified and supported.

Also, make 100% sure that the correct version of the audit report is used per the IRBA Guide to avoid embarrasment.

One last thing.

Don’t forget the value of performing a thorough review of the audit file prior to signing off on the report.

  • Consider an independent review before sign off for peace of mind on larger or riskier attorneys’ trust accounts, while you are still allowed to edit the working papers.
  • Include attorneys’ trust account files in your annual monitoring reviews to ensure that deficiencies are identified and addressed in the next year.

LEAF can perform pre-issuance reviews in addition to the monitoring of your files’ quality standard.

Happy to help.

Contact us at for more assistance or to get your burning questions answered.