Accounting for Law Firms: A Guide Including Best Practices

accounting for law firms

Grow Law Firm is a professional law firm digital marketing agency with the sole mission of helping law firms take their operations to the next level. Call today for a free consultation and learn what Grow Law Firm can do for you. Legislative bodies, the American Bar Association, and state bar associations have created protective rules stipulating how lawyers carry out their duties to their clients. The standard law firm business structure is a limited liability partnership (LLP). Owners, called partners, enjoy the benefits of pass-through taxation under a shield that protects their personal assets from business liabilities.

accounting for law firms

It also assists with driving growth for your business by integrated Accounting, CRM & HR Software. The platform works exceptionally well for small businesses that need to figure out a lot of things when they are setting out. This delightful software allows them to keep up with the client’s expectations by assisting them in overseeing a timely delivery. Make sure you weigh the pros and cons of both methods for your firm, and then, moving forward, make sure your records are clear and easy to read.

Turn business receipts into data & deductibles

Nick Gallo is a Certified Public Accountant and content marketer for the financial industry. He has been an auditor of international companies and a tax strategist for real estate investors. He now writes articles on personal and corporate finance, is purchase ledger control account a debit or credit accounting and tax matters, and entrepreneurship. As a result, it’s easy to make accounting a secondary priority thinking you can always deal with it later. Unfortunately, that attitude leads to some of the most frustrating accounting situations.

Whether you do the task yourself or outsource it to a pro, the goal is to make sure your books are accurate, up-to-date, and useful to you and your CPA. Whatever the reason, borrowing from an IOLTA is one of the most common ways to get disbarred. Once you’ve chosen an accountant to work with, use these questions to guide your initial conversation. A CPA can also help you make long-term, big picture budgeting decisions about the future of your business. You can also use this information to identify what parts of your practice are most and least successful—so you can more thoughtfully allocate resources to stimulate future growth.

Deskera Books is an online accounting, invoicing, and inventory management software that is designed to make your life easy. A one-stop solution, it caters to all your business needs from creating invoices, tracking expenses to viewing all your financial documents whenever you need them. According to cash method accounting, revenue is recognized when funds are received and expenses when they’re paid out. Your firm will also be able to pay tax on income once it has been received and deposited in the bank using this method.

  • While you spent most of your life becoming a seasoned lawyer, accounting is a different area and not your expertise.
  • Unfortunately, their consequences are not always so simple and can affect significant portions of law firm business.
  • They’re taxed based on their portion of the firm’s earnings and pay themselves through an owner’s draw.
  • And although accrual accounting gives you a good idea of your future income and expenses, it does not provide as clear a picture of your cash flow situation as cash basis accounting.

If you have any trust accounts in your firm, every days you will need to carry out a three-way reconciliation. These include the one on the trust account ledger, the total of all of the individual client’s ledgers, and the bank statement for the trust. It’s very important to establish separate bank accounts in a legal accounting system.

Understand the Fundamentals of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

You can research this on your state government’s website, and consult with your CPA. Before you commit, make sure you do the math to determine the impact a provider’s fees will have on your bottom line. You should also keep any other documentary evidence that supports an item of income, a deduction, or credit shown on your tax return.

  • Financial accounting is the process of documenting, summarizing, and reporting transactions generated by a law firm over time.
  • Whenever a client pays an invoice, you must allocate the payment to the incurred costs of a matter first.
  • FreshBooks accounting software offers online billing and payment options to get you paid faster.
  • Artificial intelligence is not a disadvantage but a significant benefit for the legal sector to improve their legal work practice affordable and flexibly.
  • Comparing different banks’ answers to these questions will help you decide which institution and account are right for you.

This also includes accounting wherein the things could take dire diversions if not done professionally. If you are the owner of a small business or a small law firm, you must familiarize yourself with the accounting concepts to implement in your firm. Doing so will help you keep a tab on the updated rules and regulations pertaining to your state. However, leaving the task to an office manager or assistant can result in inconsistent, error-ridden financial records. And legal professionals who take on the lawyer accounting duties themselves often end up dedicating hours to non-billable administrative work. For almost 60 years, we’ve armed premier law firms with comprehensive benchmarking information on a broad range of management topics important to law firm leaders.

Billing & Payments

The main thing to keep in mind when deciding on an accounting solution for law firms is that no two businesses are alike. Accounting and financial management mistakes can threaten the well-being of any law firm. Fortunately, you can easily avoid many of them if you know which types of errors are the most common.

accounting for law firms

They are also crucial for managing business finances and maintaining accurate bookkeeper records. Law firms hold client funds in a separate trust account called an IOLTA account. IOLTA accounts are lawyers’ trust accounts and have very specific rules regarding what you can and can’t do and they have stiff penalties for breaking these rules. If a client is down with the occasional spreadsheet, the idea of a cloud-based accounting solution is intimidating and may even repulse them. But if you step back and look at the big picture, this type of setup actually makes financial reporting and tracking much easier. Most of the time a law firm will have a unique set of accounting rules that they follow.

Zola Suite: good lawyers accounting software if you need CRM capabilities

What does it take to build both client trust and brand value for a small or large law firm? Keeping your customers connected timely is what increases your firm’s engagement and helps your customers to be updated timely. The online presence of accounting software is not just important for your law firm to be successful, but it needs proper continuity in the process to gain positive results from the same.

The differentiating factor for accounting is whether there are contingencies or refundability clauses in the retainer contract. So, avoid making manual entries, and take help of a software that would not only collect data but will auto populate it for you. As someone working in Law, you are not expected to know things in depth as a professional CPA. However, it is always advised to know a few basics to keep yourself in the loop with context to what’s going on in your firm.


This way, they make it easier for stakeholders to evaluate the firm’s profitability and financial health. Inaccurate bookkeeping can also result in legal compliance issues for law firms due to incorrect reporting of finances. Bookkeeping involves recording daily financial transactions, including sales, purchases, receipts, and payments in a business account.

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