Accounting for Law Firms: A Guide Including Best Practices

bookkeeping for law firm

Most firms will need three business bank accounts at a minimum—checking, savings, and a separate IOLTA or trust account. Without the proper business bank accounts, you risk inaccurate bookkeeping, messy records, and potential compliance violations regarding trust funds. Law firm invoicing can be extremely time-consuming and tedious without the right legal accounting software. Your attorneys may have to look back and review client matter tasks in order to submit their times to support staff.

bookkeeping for law firm

Whether it’s mixing up your business and personal transactions or deducting an expense from the wrong client trust account, it’s easy for law firm owners to record transactions incorrectly. If you want to ensure that your trust accounting is correct, we recommend looking into our best law firm accounting software. Handling client funds is a significant responsibility and you must remember a large number of rules to conduct your role ethically and responsibly. However, it’s easy to make attorney bookkeeping and data entry mistakes when you have to maintain and complete your day-to-day transactions manually. Only a small mistake or duplicated data entry may result in wasted time, mismatched records, billing complications, and even compliance violations.

Use financial reporting to optimize your finances

By having a CPA on board, law firms can get assistance with filing taxes and making sure they are compliant with all regulations. This can make the process smoother for new small businesses that may not be familiar with all of the tax requirements. Ultimately, by having an effective bookkeeping system in place, law firms can better manage their finances and create more opportunities for growth. Managing money is now simpler than ever with QuickBooks for Lawyers. You can use it to manage amounts in both operating and trust accounts, as well as payments and credit notes applied to bills in Clio. Moreover, the accountant should be able to capture expenses accurately while also understanding client trust. Additionally, an accountant who can use data to make informed decisions about the firm’s financial health is highly desirable.

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The cash basis accounting method is easier and more straightforward, which will free up your time to work on building your practice. Typical accounting tasks are preparing monthly income and balance sheet statements; preparing and completing tax returns; and forecasting law firm bookkeeping future cash flow. It is easy to make legal accounting mistakes when working in law with trust accounts. It is too easy to put the funds in the wrong bank account, mismanage an account, accidentally use funds that need to be saved, or fail to report it correctly.

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Preventing messes before they occur instead of cleaning them up afterward is a common theme in many lawyer accounting best practices. One of the most important ways of doing this is to develop an organized bookkeeping system as soon as possible. For example, lawyers may collect settlement funds on behalf of their clients. Not only do you have to keep these funds separate from yours and your firm’s, but even mingling them with other clients’ funds can be problematic. Anyone wanting to run a legit business should never combine personal and business expenses. Intermingling the two makes it nearly impossible to claim your expenses, not to mention track the financial wellness of your firm. How much cash and credit do you have available in non-client (i.e., not trust) accounts to keep your business afloat?

  • That includes things like affordability, ease of use, and suite of features (client management, financial management, project management, etc.).
  • Your financial strategy will help you plan, strategize, and shift as you need to, helping you grow a financially healthy law firm.
  • Data entry errors lead to wasted time, as you comb through records to figure out what the error is, as well as billing complications and compliance violations in the worst cases.
  • We have years of experience in delivering the best accounting services for all kinds of law firms and attorneys.

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