Firm Finances: Bookkeeping, Accounting, and KPIs 2024

Firm Finances: Bookkeeping, Accounting, and KPIs 2024

law firm bookkeeping

We’d be happy to understand the needs of your business and determine if Bench is a good fit for you. Hiring myself as a bookkeeper would be an expensive waste of resources. Would you hire someone who has mediocre recordkeeping skills to manage your books for $300/hour? If that’s your billable rate, then that’s what you’re effectively doing.

  • Do your due diligence and make sure every dollar going into the trust account is supposed to be there.
  • Borrowing is also a red flag for potential insolvency or other financial problems a law firm may be going through.
  • Make sure your trust account and/or IOLTA are included in your COA.
  • With money flowing in so many different directions, it’s easy to lose track.
  • So, many lawyers go into the field without knowing the best practice surrounding trust accounts and how to manage them.
  • Whether you’re a solopreneur or run a firm with a hundred lawyers, knowing where every dollar is going will help you make better decisions for the firm’s health.

Setting up and recording the chart of accounts for law firms isn’t just suggestions, they are requirements. Bookkeepers maintain and record all financial transactions in the original books of entry and balance the financial accounts for your firms. They summarize and organize all the company’s financial transactions chronologically in a systematic manner. In law firms, legal bookkeeping takes place first and relates to the administrative side of tracking cash. You don’t necessarily need accounting software or a professional bookkeeper to handle your law firm bookkeeping. When you’re just starting out, you can keep costs low by recording all income and expenses in a spreadsheet, like our Excel Income Statement Template.

Law firm accounting vs. bookkeeping: What’s the difference?

It’s best to record these expenses as they happen, but realistically there will be times when you forget. The goal of bookkeeping is to have an accurate picture of your current financial standing. For example, you might think you have plenty of money in the bank and buy a new computer before realizing you forgot to record that check to the court reporter. A simple mistake could send your firm into the red for the month.

At year end we will remove these accrual elements to ensure your bookkeeping is adjusted back to modified cash basis. 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.

Best Legal Practice Management Software

Suppose you understand exactly what your firm is collecting and your firm’s expenses; you lower your chances of accidentally missing out on revenue. If billed hours are not recorded properly, or you miss out on tax deduction opportunities, you miss out on many opportunities. Legal accounting will let you analyze and collect information to make decisions with data in mind.

law firm bookkeeping

During that time, you likely did not learn anything about legal accounting or bookkeeping. So the thought of legal bookkeeping and law firm accounting can sound intimidating to even the most experienced attorneys. Bookkeeping and accounting for law firms allow you to collect, record, and analyze financial data. Analyzing this information helps determine what areas of the law firm are working efficiently and what areas need some work. It’s recommended to find a merchant processor that works mainly with law firms to avoid breaking certain trust accounting rules. Borrowing from IOLTA is not only a mistake but also against the rules.

How to Make an Attorney Billing Statement (Sample Included)

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 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. When it comes to law firm accounting, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. If you put your firm’s bookkeeping and accounting on the back burner, you will have issues with cash flow, getting paid, and more.

  • Bookkeeping is the process of tracking the cash coming into and out of your business, and it’s the foundation for proper legal accounting.
  • Many lawyers go to one or the other extreme—they either claim everything (and possibly more than they’re allowed to), or they’re so afraid to overstep they miss out on tax deductions.
  • With organized financial data, you can better identify opportunities to reduce your overhead, earn more money, and plan for the future.
  • Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts, also known as IOLTA accounts, are bank accounts used to hold client retainers, settlement funds, and other money that belongs to clients.
  • Following the above three best practices allows you to optimize your finances.
  • Accountants typically take the books and records prepared by a bookkeeper and use them to provide business advice, prepare financial statements, and file tax returns.
  • In accrual accounting, you record revenue when earned and expenses when incurred, regardless of when cash changes hands.

With that said, here are the steps we recommend you follow, whether you’re a small or large firm. In our opinion, this is an oversight, as mismanaging these accounts can lead to serious consequences, even disbarment. Your budget is a vital tool for keeping you in control of expenditure and making sure you’re not overspending. These best practices all come back to one idea — staying organized.

If there are any differences between the three, your trust reconciliation report should show the reason for the discrepancy. For example, say you deposited a check for $10,000 to the trust account on December law firm bookkeeping 30 but the deposit didn’t clear the bank until January 2. The December 31 bank statement shows a balance that is $10,000 less than your books or the client’s trust ledger due to a timing difference.

  • One should be an operating bank account and there should be a separate account for Interest on Lawyer Trust Accounts (IOLTA).
  • When you incorporate your business, you essentially separate yourself from the business entity.
  • The more methods of payment you have, the higher the odds are of a client working with you.
  • Here’s the list of tax accountants that we’ve vetted at the Biglaw Investor.