How to Effectively Do Bookkeeping for a Law Firm Tips from an Accountant and Bookkeeper

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  • Post last modified:August 25, 2023
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bookkeeping for small law firm

Having a clear budget will help you track expenses, revenue, and goals so that you can make sure that you have the necessary resources available for major expenses. An IOLTA account is a pool, interest-bearing business checking account for the deposit of client funds which interest earned belongs to the Lawyer Trust Fund. Poor accounting practices, such as struggling to track billable hours or sending out invoices late, can lead to money leakage. Double-entry accounting is a system of bookkeeping where every entry to an account (i.e., every financial transaction) requires a corresponding and opposite entry to a different account.

bookkeeping for small law firm

Two core tasks of a legal bookkeeper include data entry and bank reconciliation. Even if you master the basic principles of legal accounting, you’re still not an accountant or bookkeeper at the end of the day. How your business pays income tax is determined by your business’s legal structure.

Why QuickBooks

If you hire someone, you may end up watching them shop online while they’re on your dime – especially if you don’t have enough work to occupy them all day. Consulting with an outside accounting firm is a bridge to taking some of the burden off of you and your legal team. You may be able to outsource some or all of your bookkeeping work. If you’re not sure where to start, give JADDE Financial Solutions a call.

  • Nevertheless, many attorneys fail to separate revenue that covers incurred costs from their actual income.
  • While this primarily applies to new law firms, ensuring that the basics are determined and set up correctly is critical.
  • Not all income is revenue — this is a distinction that needs to be made or you could have to deal with inaccurate bookkeeping.
  • Law firms need to ensure that their financial and accounting practices are up to par in order to grow their businesses.
  • With so many varied forms of income and collection, it’s no wonder that collecting on invoices can be a full time endeavor.
  • So the thought of legal bookkeeping and law firm accounting can sound intimidating to even the most experienced attorneys.

Your law firm will also be able to set revenue benchmarks, which will help you determine if you are meeting your goals or need to adjust your business plan. Law firms also benefit from being able to keep client and financial data perfectly in sync. Users can also trial Xero for free before committing to use it full-time. An accountant who has experience with financial forecasting and strategy can help a law firm plan for its future expenses and income.

Best Legal Practice Management Software

Follow these rules and keep track of client funds every day to ensure you don’t cross any lines that can cause your firm serious problems. While you could hire permanent accounting help as your firm grows, most firms find working with an independent contractor who provides these services is a great way to get started. Many lawyers assume their bookkeeper can or should help them with their financial analysis and get frustrated when they don’t. If you understand the different roles and skillsets each position has, you’ll be able to assess what type of help they can provide to you.

Some lawyers charge flat fees for services like estate planning or divorce mediation. Criminal defense attorneys have a retainer and charge hourly rates. Personal injury lawyers typically work on contingency and are paid after law firm bookkeeping a case is won. With so many varied forms of income and collection, it’s no wonder that collecting on invoices can be a full time endeavor. Get your account receivables under control with automated invoice notifications.

Failing to Accurately Maintain Your IOLTA (Trust) Bookkeeping

Well kept books for attorneys will aid accountants by giving them accurate financial data to work with. We will introduce the basics of accounting and bookkeeping as it pertains to law firms. We will cover the best practices to follow and common mistakes you should avoid. No additional software is necessary to access the powerful accounting and bookkeeping tools that you would expect to find in high-quality programs.

bookkeeping for small law firm

You can also use this information to identify what parts of your practice are most and least successful—so you can more thoughtfully allocate resources to stimulate future growth.

Once the account is open, it is important to manage it carefully by regularly reconciling accounts, tracking expenses, and paying bills on time. With financial data, legal accountants present big-picture information and give comprehensive and specific reports of a firm’s financial health. These data are valuable for a law firm’s future sustainability and profitability.

Without the essentials, your firm might struggle to stay compliant with ethical rules, and you may inadvertently leave money on the table. Recording any money still in a trust account as income is a glaring error and is also against the rules. You may count funds in trust accounts as income until you have earned fees for services rendered. QuickBooks is an industry leader and one of the oldest accounting software options. Countless law firms have used the features QuickBooks offers to handle their financial and legal concerns. Although it can benefit law firms of any size, QuickBooks tends to work well with smaller and midsize firms.

You can always access reports from your phone when you’re on-the-go. You can also schedule invoices to be generated and emailed at certain dates or intervals. Emailed invoices have a Pay Now button so that clients can pay online with cards or bank transfers. Send invoices from the app and get alerts the moment they’re paid. Accept all credit cards and free bank transfers, right in the invoice.

  • Revenue refers to the money, payments, and proceeds your firm receives.
  • It takes years to build a strong attorney reputation and one second to destroy it.
  • Accountants also help you with strategic tax planning, analyzing your business financial position, forecasting, and tax filling.
  • For a fraction of the cost of a full-time controller, we will take the pain out of your accounting and free you up to focus on practicing law.
  • PCLaw has made its name a one-stop shop that works well in any situation, especially with large law firms.
  • The chart of accounts for law firms should include the IOLTA or trust account, as well as a trust liability account (to offset and show that the funds in the IOLTA account are not the law firm’s).
  • But no matter how much knowledge you hold, this guide will help you attain a high level of fluency in both practices.

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