It will save you a lot of time and money, not to mention, frustration. 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. Making mistakes with trust accounting can lead to penalties, suspension, or the loss of the right to practice law. You undoubtedly have more pressing matters than organizing your financial statements or monitoring your books.
They require meticulous accounting to keep clients’ funds separate. By learning the principles and best practices of legal accounting and bookkeeping and mastering their languages, you can effectively separate personal and business expenses. You can also strengthen and protect your firm’s finances from preventable problems. When pressed for time, it’s tempting to let recordkeeping fall by the wayside. But if your law firm bookkeeping isn’t up to date, it’s tough to stay on top of cash flow and ensure client funds are handled properly. People tend to use the terms bookkeeping and accounting interchangeably, but bookkeeping is actually just the first step in the accounting process.
How confident are you in your Trust Account Recordkeeping?
In addition, your bookkeeper may help you process and send invoices, process your accounts payable, manage payroll, and run routine financial reports. Managing your books via accounting software may get you started as a solo attorney. But, if you want to spend your time focused on practicing law rather than deep in the weeds of your firm’s finances, you’ll likely want to consider hiring help. One (or more) of these professionals can greatly assist with your law firm accounting.
However, when a firm fails to separate revenue that covers incurred costs from its actual revenue, its records will not be correct. If a firm does not separate its revenue from incurred costs from their actual revenue, the documents will be inaccurate. Essentially, double-entry accounting is an excellent safeguard against errors.
Manage money correctly and stay in compliance
Before the IOLTA, lawyers would store this money in a non-interest-bearing checking account, as they are not allowed to benefit financially from storing a client’s money. Knowing the fundamentals will enable you to be aware of your overall financial health, but trained accountants can still provide peace of mind and offer invaluable law firm bookkeeping help. For example, if you purchase office supplies for your business, you should have an “Office Supplies Expense” account. But you don’t want to set up separate accounts for legal pads, pens, printer ink, etc. Lawyers spend years honing their legal skills, but they often have little knowledge of accounting practices.
To keep things even more streamlined, consider using online payment software together with legal accounting software. For example, if you were using LawPay to collect payments and invoice clients, you could easily sync all your transactions into QuickBooks for easy reporting and reconciliation. The basis of good legal accounting always starts with a well-thought-out budget. A budget helps you set expectations regarding cash flow and expenses for the year, reducing the likelihood of missing a payment or bouncing a check. 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.
A step-by-step guide to mastering accounting for lawyers
The benefit of this approach is that you have a more realistic understanding of your law firm’s income and expenses. Without a professional accountant, you risk mixing up revenue and income, two different types of proceeds. Revenue refers to the money, payments, and proceeds your firm receives. On the other hand, income refers to what is left over after the firm’s costs and expenses have been deducted from the revenue. Taxes, property expenses, legal dues, and payroll are typical expenses law firms must deduct from revenue to get income.