Accounting for Law Firms: A Guide Including Best Practices


bookkeeping for attorneys

As a result, many lawyers can avoid a lot of trouble by electing the cash basis. For example, job costing is a strategy lawyers can use to ensure their financial records are easy to interpret and analyze. It’s a form of cost accounting that involves assigning every expense you incur to a specific project.

This means that attorneys have to take extra care when selecting a merchant processor for their business. 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 (the money is either in the bank or out of the bank) and A Deep Dive into Law Firm Bookkeeping there’s no need to track receivables or payables. In addition to their business checking and savings accounts, most law firms are required to hold client funds in a separate trust account—often called an “IOLTA”. Once you understand the basics, consider hiring an accountant, either as a contractor or as an employee.

Do lawyers need accounting?

Below, you’ll find a short breakdown of some of the more popular options for accounting software for law firms. To open a business bank account, you will need the necessary legal paperwork, such as the Articles of Incorporation and Employer Identification Number (EIN). You may also need to provide proof of address and identification documents. Once the account is open, it is important to manage it carefully by regularly reconciling accounts, tracking expenses, and paying bills on time.

  • On the other hand, income refers to what is left over after the firm’s costs and expenses have been deducted from the revenue.
  • Be sure to keep track of all payments made, both to third parties and internally, in order to stay on top of your finances.
  • While you didn’t get into law to practice accounting, putting in the work at the beginning will make it easier to file your taxes each year.
  • When you make accounting mistakes it makes you look unprofessional which can hinder your opportunity for growth and even make you miss out on clients and referrals.
  • These data are valuable for a law firm’s future sustainability and profitability.

Typical bookkeeping tasks are (1) recording financial transactions, (2) creating and sending invoices, and (3) running payroll. Your bookkeeper can maintain a proper record of the financial transactions related to the firm and ensure you remain in compliance with the Bar. Bookkeepers also maintain proper records of expenses and revenues and can help you find ways to save money and budget for the future. The right legal accounting software considers these specific rules, allowing you to collect, track, and reconcile all money entering and leaving your client trust accounts. It may offer safety to ensure that law firm operating funds are earned before being withdrawn and assist you in avoiding overdrawn accounts.

Be prepared to perform a three-way trust reconciliation

Making mistakes can lead to penalties and interest or audits from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Apply for financing, track your business cashflow, and more with a single lendio account. Join lawyers from over 15,000 firms who trust MyCase to grow their firm while managing their caseload.

Even with your busy schedule of cases and clients, you can master law firm accounting and financial management. In this law firm accounting guide, we take you through law firm accounting and financial management basics to cement your knowledge and present valuable new information. We cover all the key aspects involved in both practices and explain strategies to help you apply this knowledge to your firm’s benefit.

Bookkeeping Services for Law Firms

That’s why we’ve put together everything you need to know about law firm accounting and bookkeeping. Additionally, users can generate reports by category or bill type to analyze their finances. For further assistance with the setup process of QuickBooks Online for lawyers in your office setting, the author is happy to come onsite if necessary.

bookkeeping for attorneys

This will help you make sure that you’re bringing in enough money to cover your costs and hopefully make a profit. A mileage tracker app can help you keep track of all your business miles, as well as plan for future expenses. A free time tracking software can be used until you get your legal accounting system set up. It’s important to remember that a standard payment processor will keep a certain percentage of each transaction as a fee. Because of this, you run the risk of breaking certain trust accounting laws (those transaction fees need to be immediately paid back into the trust account).

We Specialize in Law Firm Accounting

When you work with an accountant from the beginning, accounting for law firms becomes much easier. These errors can lead to wasted time and complications for a law firm’s bookkeeping process. IOLTA (Integrated Online Taxation and Accounting) is a software platform that helps law firms manage their finances and keep records of their transactions. IOLTA can be used to track billable hours, expenses, client payments, and trust accounting.

These listed services are in addition to most accounting software’s standard features, including expense tracking, calendar management, and report generation. To learn more about financial management and law firm growth, watch our podcast, where Sasha Berson and Ryan Kimler discuss increasing a law firm’s revenue by optimizing numbers. A strong accounting practice will also allow you to plan strategically for the future. Clearly presented financial data will help you identify areas in your business that may need tweaking for optimal functionality. With the accrual method, on the other hand, you enter an expense or revenue the moment it is incurred or earned. For example, when you invoice a client for services, the money they owe you is entered into the books as revenue.

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