Law Firm Accounting: The Ultimate Guide

law firm bookkeeping

You’ll also identify what areas of your firm (practice areas, types of clients, etc.) are most profitable. This way, you can focus on working with the kinds of clients that bring in the most money. At its core, you must always know who’s entitled to the funds in your trust account and give it to that person. While you don’t need to familiarize yourself with an accounting encyclopedia, it will pay off to learn some common terms.

  • As an attorney, you’ll spend a lot of your time invoicing your clients.
  • Start by making a list of your mandatory expenses, such as license fees, rent, and utilities.
  • This is fine but look closely at the outstanding items to ensure they aren’t an incorrect ledger entry.
  • This type of accounting may include assets from settlements or retainers fees.
  • They have their own rules and regulations that vary depending on your jurisdiction.

The following guide explains the fundamentals of law firm accounting and bookkeeping. Many attorneys prefer to get paid by credit card (online or in-person), which incur their own special fees. Sometimes these fees can become hard to track, causing you to charge the wrong client’s account. To prevent misappropriating funds from other clients, remember to only charge your clients for fees directly relating to their trust account. Interestingly, tax deductions can ease the burden when used correctly—yet not all lawyers are up-to-date on their tax deductions.

CosmoLex: great all-in-one law accounting software

It would be best if you chose your legal accountant for their experience working with law firms, specifically those in your practice area and jurisdiction. A legal accountant and bookkeeper will work towards the same goal — they both want to keep your law firm financially healthy and built for the future. But the way they go about it is different, doing different tasks for the good of your law firm. That’s why we’ve put together everything you need to know about law firm accounting and bookkeeping.

In double-entry accounting, each transaction results in two transaction entries. These transactions are recorded on equal sides, known as debits and credits. Debits and credits combine to form a balance sheet comprising assets, liabilities, and equity. You can also set key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you accurately monitor your firm’s financial performance.

PCLaw: best law firm accounting software for large companies

They can use your financial data to understand what it tells you about your business. Remember earlier when we discussed setting up a Chart of Accounts in Chapter 1? Your bookkeeper goes into your accounting software regularly (at least weekly) and records all the money coming in and all the money going out so that it appears in the correct place. First things first, bookkeeping and accounting aren’t the same things. Although they share a common goal, they occur at different stages of managing your firm’s finances.

law firm bookkeeping

Your legal bookkeeper will be able to keep accurate records and review and update your books on a weekly or monthly basis. With that information, you can better understand your firm’s financial health and plan for the coming months. Putting time and effort into your accounting and bookkeeping will help you keep track of what money is coming in, how you’re spending it, and who it belongs to.

Never record a trust deposit as income

Additionally, users can generate reports by category or bill type to analyze their finances. For further assistance with the setup process of QuickBooks Online for lawyers in your office setting, the author is happy to come onsite if necessary. For example, if a law firm were to use Xero for bookkeeping, they would be able to see real-time insights into their finances and integrate it with Clio. This would make bookkeeping and accounting much simpler and more efficient for the law firm. Xero is designed to provide small businesses and their advisors with an easy-to-use platform that offers real-time insights into a firm’s finances.

  • As a result, it’s unwise for lawyers to attempt to handle their law firm’s accounting without assistance from an expert.
  • As owners of our own law firms, we’ve made our fair share of mistakes.
  • Your business may also be required to pay state taxes in both your home state (where your business is registered) and in any states where your business has nexus.
  • All the comprehensive adjusted owner’s information would help you make informed business decisions.
  • QuickBooks Online for Lawyers makes financial management easier than ever, thanks to its automated trust workflow.

As a result, it’s unwise for lawyers to attempt to handle their law firm’s accounting without assistance from an expert. It’s usually best to pay for a Certified Public Accountant’s (CPA) tax services. However, there are a couple of unique aspects to law firm accounting, and managing them can be challenging. Most notably, lawyers often hold onto funds that don’t belong to them, and specific rules govern how you need to handle that cash.

What special considerations do accountants for law firms need to pay attention to?

Staying on top of your law firm’s accounting responsibilities while providing legal services to clients can be a significant challenge. Here are some practices you should follow to minimize the burden and set yourself up for success. Learn about different accounting methods and find which one suits best for your law firm. You might need to consult a legal accounting expert before you make a decision.

Xero is growing fast as an accounting management option for small and growing law firms. One of its most attractive features is no limit on the number of users allowed access. Another feature that makes it one of the top choices for law firms is its ease of use and intuitive interface. Top-of-the-line law firm accounting practices generate regular reports of activities. By studying these reports, you will gain valuable insight into your firm’s operations and be able to make effective decisions for your firm.

Double-Entry Accounting

Retainer agreements can get complex, but I don’t need to tell you that. The differentiating factor for accounting is whether there are contingencies or refundability clauses in the retainer contract. It’s customary to use IOLTAs when you’re depositing nominal amounts that would earn little to no interest. The state pools the funds from individual IOLTAs to generate enough revenue to fund the public programs.

law firm bookkeeping

They’ll be more familiar with the ins and outs of law firm accounting, including the rules and regulations that could get you into trouble. When choosing an accountant or bookkeeper for a law firm, it is important to select someone who has experience working with businesses in the legal industry. This will ensure that the accountant or bookkeeper understands the unique financial needs of a law firm.

It also integrates with Clio, making it easy to log client invoices and expenses. Additionally, there is a free trial available so users can test it before they buy. This gives you the best of both worlds while making your law firm’s comprehensive accounting situation easier to manage. Trust accounts are one of the most common areas where legal accounting mistakes are made.

They also face tax-compliance issues at the state and federal levels and municipal taxes. BTDS is one of the fastest-growing law firm accounting companies in the country. When it comes to our record-keeping, the handling of our Trust account was and continues to be most important. Now that we work with law firm bookkeeping Lescault and Walderman, they are responsive to our needs. Clear financial data reporting and analysis provides confidence in operational decision, management, transparency, and partner trust. Monitor and manage Trust/IOLTA accounts and client trust liabilities to meet strict state bar regulations.


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