Accounting for Law Firms: A Guide Including Best Practices

law firm bookkeeping

Legal bookkeeping takes place before any accounting can occur and is an essential administrative task for any law firm. It is easy to make legal accounting mistakes when working in law with trust accounts. It is too easy to put the funds in law firm bookkeeping the wrong bank account, mismanage an account, accidentally use funds that need to be saved, or fail to report it correctly. Making mistakes with trust accounting can lead to penalties, suspension, or the loss of the right to practice law.

  • Choosing various software that works together seamlessly makes running your firm much more straightforward.
  • 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.
  • The types of expenses you can deduct on your tax return will depend on the expenses you incur in the course of doing business.
  • – How much money are you collecting as a percentage of fees you are invoicing?
  • This is why it’s important to keep accurate records and separate cases or matters based on the attorney.
  • Supporting Strategies can evaluate your day-to-day operations and suggest improvements that have the potential to transform the financial management of your law firm.

For example, when you send an invoice to a client, you’ll mark it as revenue, even though you might not get paid for 30 days. Accounting for law firms may be new or challenging to you, but it doesn’t have to be scary. What’s most important is that you get the details right so that you can stay compliant with ethics rules and help your firm grow to its full potential. Both general accounting and trust accounting are necessary for your firm’s success—and integrations seamlessly tie the two areas together.

Incorrectly differentiating income and revenue

The next step is to determine how your law firm is going to receive money from clients. It’s similar to two-way reconciliation, where you compare your bank account balance to your company’s books to make sure it matches. If you’re confident that you can manage a business credit card properly , it’s an excellent tool to grow your business. If your data isn’t kept up to date, then your legal accountant won’t be able to do their job as effectively. Your COA will look different depending on your jurisdiction, law firm’s size, and practice area, but will always have these categories. You’re responsible for recording the receipt and disbursement of these funds and posting the transactions to the ledger accounts of clients. When a lawyer holds onto a client’s money, they store it in a trust account.

  • For example, keeping track of invoices or monthly recurring expenses.
  • Bookkeeping for a law office involves recording your day-to-day transactions and maintaining clean financial records.
  • Creating invoices that explain what funds were removed from a trust and what remains in their trust account.
  • When there is no adequate legal accounting software in place, your attorneys and staff may attempt to track expenses by saving receipts or writing payments in a ledger.
  • Accountants use financial data to analyze, interpret, and create a summary for you.
  • Even though interest rates on business accounts are traditionally low, having a cash surplus in a business savings account can improve your likelihood of being approved for a loan.

In addition, Clio integrates with a good deal of third-party apps, including QuickBooks Online and Xero. It has a neat Accounting Export feature that lets you export time entries to other accounting software. It is imperative for the growth of your law firm to outsource some of the accounting functions to concentrate your energy and time on your core business operations. Carole Symonds is a Partner at PwC and also leads the US tax services for PwC’s Law Firm Services practice. She is also a featured speaker and moderator at PwC Law Firm Services conferences and events. Implement the right accounting software for your firm to save time, work, and money.

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

Your firm needs to keep track of your invoices so you know what money is owed to avoid this problem. 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.

When a business expense gets lost in your personal account and you don’t claim it on your tax return, that’s a tax deduction you’re missing out on. And if your CPA has to spend time separating your personal expenses from your business expenses, you’ll end up paying them more in accounting fees. Managing all of your business transactions in a separate account makes it easier for you, your bookkeeper, and your CPA to manage your accounting. If everything is jumbled into one account, come tax time, you or your CPA will have to go through your bank records to figure out which expenses are related to your business. When it comes to accounting for law firms, whether you handle it yourself or hire someone, your bookkeeping system must maintain a consistent schedule for carrying out bookkeeping tasks. You’re much more likely to stay organized if you start off organized. By establishing—and following—best practices for accounting for law firms like the examples below, you’ll be better able to help your firm stay on track.

Set up payroll

Making it easier to conduct three-way reconciliations of accounts. Money comes in and leaves your firm, so it’s worth it to pay attention. The software offers great billing features that support hourly, flat fee, and hybrid billing, as well as LEDES billing. Law professionals don’t have time for bookkeeping, and they shouldn’t have to worry about it. Whether you run a solo law office, operate a mid-sized firm, or helm a large legal… Using our technology, accounting solutions & hardware leads to cost savings, reducing your team’s time spent on buying, implementation & upkeep. With the SPLA, we can license eligible Microsoft products on a monthly basis, during any agreement term, to host software services and applications for our customers.

If you want to ensure that your trust accounting is correct, we recommend looking into our best law firm accounting software. Each month, a team of professional bookkeepers with experience in legal accounting gathers your data for you and turns it into accurate financial statements. You also get smart software to help you monitor your finances and stay in control of cash flow. Despite the rise of online payments in the legal profession, some of the current Bar Association rules around law firm accounting were created back when everyone was still paid by check. This means that attorneys have to take extra care when selecting a merchant processor for their business.

What legal accountants do

Most law firms should start by using the cash basis accounting method. The IRS won’t require you to use the specific rules necessary to implement the accrual method until you’re making $10 million a year. The cash basis accounting method is easier and more straightforward, which will free up your time to work on building your practice. This is why it’s important to keep accurate records and separate cases or matters based on the attorney. Thankfully, these days, endless files and folders are less common because of advancements in legal technology, including law firm accounting software. Complex bookkeeping and accounting can be handled digitally, freeing up time and saving money by having more efficient processes for handling finances.