How Law Firm Accountants Succeed


To prevent misappropriating funds from other clients, remember to only charge your clients for fees directly relating to their trust account. Poor accounting practices—like struggling to track billable hours or sending out invoices late —can lead to money leakage. If your firm is not keeping good books or reviewing financials regularly, these leaks could go unnoticed—which means your firm loses out on hard-earned revenue. Any money that your business holds onto for a client and hasn’t earned goes into a client trust account .All of these costs should be captured so that you can see the entire cost of your personnel. Mark Calatrava has been working for Fit Small Business as a review writer specializing in accounting software since 2019. His articles focus on providing the best answers to people’s questions while engaging the reader. Follow these tips to ensure compliance with legal firm accounting. You can use the same IOLTA for multiple clients, but you must have a reliable method to track each client’s running balance.

Can you go from accounting to law?

Work experience. The knowledge and skills that are utilised by financial professionals can transfer well to a legal position, so starting a financial career doesn’t negate the ability to switch to a legal one. For example, the analytical skills used by an accountant can prove useful in company and tax law.Just as your clients turn to your expertise when it comes to the law, there comes a point when you need to call in the professionals for legal accounting. Whether it means using legal accounting software to simplify and automate your accounting, hiring a professional legal accountant, or both—don’t be afraid to delegate when you need to.

Bookkeeping Vs Accounting For Law Firms

But taking the time to properly set up your finances won’t just make it easier to file your taxes each year. It’ll save you time, money, stress, and potentially legal headaches. You’ll have accurate financial statements on hand, which can show you how your practice is performing at any given moment. And it will be a lot easier to work with bookkeepers, accountants, new partners, and buyers, if you ever decide to sell the business. In fact, some software platforms allow you to use accrual-based books for monthly management of the firm, while also creating cash-basis statements for preparing tax returns.

how law firm accountants succeed

In fact, some bookkeeping tools such as QuickBooks and Xero integrate with your practice management tool to easily track your clients, invoices, and more. Make sure whatever tool you use integrates properly or choose an all-in-one software for both. As an attorney, you’re aware that when you receive money that belongs to a client, you must place those funds in a trust account separate from your own money. These funds are stored in IOLTA or “interest on lawyers trust accounts” accounts. Most law firms opt to use cash basis accounting because it’s simple to maintain. Cash accounting makes it easy to determine when a transaction has occurred and there’s no need to track receivables or payables. Conversely, cash basis accounting recognizes revenue when you’re paid (i.e. when the cash is received) and expenses when they’re paid.


Law firms can get in trouble when they withdraw unearned funds from CTAs. The money in a CTA isn’t immediately yours — you’re called a fiduciary, requiring you to exercise the highest standard of care with your client’s funds.

  • Plus, delegating bookkeeping tasks ensures you don’t allow anything to fall through the cracks while you juggle everything else you need to do each day as the owner of a law firm.
  • Whenever a client pays an invoice, you must allocate the payment to the incurred costs of a matter first.
  • This could mean taking on bookkeeping tasks in-house or hiring a professional bookkeeper with experience working with law firms.
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  • That’s why our editorial opinions and reviews are ours alone and aren’t inspired, endorsed, or sponsored by an advertiser.

LeanLaw also supports standard LEDES codes for easy invoicing. If your law firm doesn’t already have business bank accounts, it’s time to open them. Most firms will need three business bank accounts at minimum—checking, savings, and a separate IOLTA or trust account. Without the right business accounts, you risk inaccurate bookkeeping, messy records, and potentially violating compliance when it comes to trust accounts. Record the financial transactions and balance the financial accounts for your firm.

Interest On Lawyers Trust Accounts Iolta

Be sure to check that any potential bookkeeper for your firm understands the accounting software you use. 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. A double entry system, therefore, has two equal and corresponding sides—or debits and credits—and creates a balance sheet consisting of assets, liabilities, and equity. And a lack of professionalism can lead to losing your clients, referrals, and growth opportunities. Furthermore, you’re compromising firm’s compliance standards or losing your firm money. With annual legal education requirements, most law firms do a great job of keeping their… QuickBooks also requires you to manually review trust account balances and send out replenishment requests to clients.

how law firm accountants succeed

While it’s important to understand the fundamentals of accounting for law firms, you still aren’t an accountant or bookkeeper. Hiring professionals is a common practice for law firms, and it’s an easy route to peace of mind. This is because a professional legal bookkeeper and accountant can help you manage your firm’s revenue and ensure that your firm’s financial transactions are handled ethically and accurately. Accurate and timely time tracking is crucial to the success of your law firm, so it is also a top reason why you need the right legal accounting software. Gone are the days of jotting down times and tasks on the corners of legal pads or sticky notes.

The Top 25 Tax Deductions Your Business Can Take

Speak to your accountant to make sure you are correctly withholding each payroll tax. Also, ask if you are eligible to receive a tax credit for paying timely state unemployment taxes. Employment taxes are reported using a Form W-2 for each employee, and Form 940 and Form 941 if you withhold any taxes from an employee’s paycheck. Accrual accounting records revenues and expenses when they are earned and incurred, regardless of when the money is actually received or paid. 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. Your business’s accounting method will affect cash flow, tax filing, and even how you do your bookkeeping. Which method you choose will affect cash flow, tax filing, and even how you do your bookkeeping.From there, you can create your invoices in as few as four clicks, meaning you will no longer have to “find time” to bill your clients. Speaking of expenses, one of the most common mistakes attorneys make is losing track of business expenses. It’s best to capture and record your business expenses on the daily, so you don’t lose those receipts or invoices. Then, set aside a time each week to make sure they are coded properly in your books. As owners of our own law firms, we’ve made our fair share of mistakes. Unfortunately, bookkeeping mistakes have consequences for your business, income taxes, and license. Bench gives you a dedicated bookkeeper supported by a team of knowledgeable small business experts.When evaluating offers, please review the financial institution’s Terms and Conditions. If you find discrepancies with your credit score or information from your credit report, please contact TransUnion® directly. LeanLaw’s pricing is $28 per user per month when paid annually, or $35 per user per month when paid monthly, making it one of the most cost-effective options on our list.Accounting for law firms becomes so much easier when you work with an accounting professional from the beginning. To segregate client trust accounts from firm operating accounts in QuickBooks, you need to establish a separate company profile within the program. Moving funds from a client’s trust account for invoice payment also requires extra steps, which can be particularly cumbersome for firms making 10 or 20 of these transactions each month. PCLaw is one of the few legal management software that doesn’t require a separate program for accounting. If you don’t want to use separate programs for managing your bank accounts, cases, clients, and legal matters, PCLaw is right for you.To ensure you don’t intermingle, keep separate accounts for your business and your personal finances. For bookkeeping purposes, ensure you’re only tracking transactions that occur within your law firm’s accounts. If for any reason you make a mistake , make sure to track it in your books. 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. Your law firm has specific accounting needs, and you need a legal accounting software that adequately meets those needs. TimeSolv takes pride in providing lawyers and law firms with comprehensive and useful accounting tools.But they also have all the information you need to understand your firm’s financial health month-to-month. And when you commingle your personal and business finances, the following problems can arise. You can’t, for example, pay for your firm’s operating expenses directly out of an IOLTA account. You’d need to move those funds into a business account first. Some firms will also intentionally use their IOLTA accounts to hide assets, or will leave funds in their IOLTA even after they’ve been earned, using it as a savings account. Our guide to law firm billing covers everything you need to know about billing your clients more efficiently so you can maximize your cash flow.Recording them as anything but that could land you in hot water with regulators and mess up your taxes. Because of poor training, lack of accounting help, or differing IOLTA rules across state lines, many attorneys are unfamiliar with what they are and aren’t allowed to put into an IOLTA account. IOLTA accounts are tricky, because they have very specific rules around what you can and can’t do with them, and the penalties for breaking these rules can be severe, including disbarment. Teresa Matich is an experienced legal tech writer and editor. She’s a frequent guest editor of the Clio Blog, and has written for publications such as GP Solo, Legal Technology Today, and Above the Law.Sage 50cloud is a feature-rich accounting platform with tools for sales tracking, reporting, invoicing and payment processing and vendor, customer and employee management. The asset is the bank account — just like your cash account — and the liability recognizes that the bank account balance doesn’t belong to your business. The asset and liability amounts should always match, making no impact on your financial statements.