Law Firm Accounting Guide: Securing Your Law Firms Future

peace of mind

Remember earlier when we discussed setting up a Chart of Accounts in Chapter 1? Your bookkeeper goes into your accounting software regularly and records all the money coming in and all the money going out so that it appears in the correct place. In fact, some bookkeeping tools integrate with your practice management tools, allowing you to easily track your clients, invoices, and more. Make sure whatever tool you use integrates, or choose an all-in-one software for both. But setting up your finances properly won’t just make it easier to file your taxes each year—it’ll save you time, money, stress, and potentially legal trouble (yes, really!). Through the balance sheet, law firm owners will have a solid understanding of the firm’s financial health, and can compare current assets and liabilities. When compared, the company’s liquidity can be ascertained, and the rate at which the company generates returns can be calculated.


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.

Common legal accounting and bookkeeping mistakes

Regardless of the size of your law firm — even if you’re a solopreneur — it’s important to know accounting and bookkeeping basics. By learning the fundamentals of accounting, you can make sure your firm is compliant with ethics rules while finding ways to optimize your cash flow. When a business expense gets lost in your personal account and you don’t claim it on your tax return, that’s a tax deduction you’re missing out on. And if your CPA has to spend time separating your personal expenses from your business expenses, you’ll end up paying them more in accounting fees. The first thing you should do if you think you’ve messed up is to contact a practice management advisor in your state. These consultants usually have experience dealing with IOLTA, and rules in most states don’t require them to report ethics violations to the bar.

What is the easiest bookkeeping system?

FreshBooks is one of the easiest accounting software to use. The software is designed for small business owners who don't have an accounting background. You can create and send invoices, track expenses, manage projects and clients and view reports.

You can elect the cash method of accounting by using it on the first return. If you have already filed a tax return using the accrual method, you’ll need to file a request with the IRS to change to the cash method.

Intermingling Personal & Business Expenses

The cash flow statement also reveals cash outflows, investments, and expenses paid for business activities at any given period. Usually, the two primary groups of people that use the income statement are internal and external users. The internal users include company management and the board of directors, while the external users are tax and accounting professionals, creditors, and consultants. In many cases, your tax consultant will not also be your accountant.

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They require meticulous law firm bookkeeping 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.

Best Legal Practice Management Software

But legal bookkeeping and accounting in law firms are different than for other businesses. Your client trust accounts are required to keep separate from your business accounts. While it’s essential to understand the fundamentals of accounting for law firms, you still aren’t an accountant or bookkeeper. Hiring professionals is common 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 your firm’s financial transactions are handled ethically and accurately.

Proper integration with other tools is essential in order to maximize the benefits of practice management software. Law firms also benefit from being able to keep client and financial data perfectly in sync. Users can also trial Xero for free before committing to use it full-time. Bookkeeping is a process of recording, classifying, and summarizing financial transactions to provide accurate and up-to-date financial data. This is important for law firms because it helps them stay compliant with regulations and track their finances. 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. Look into the pros and cons of both methods for your firm, then be consistent going forward to ensure your records are accurate and easy to track.

Selecting and implementing the right tools.

You’ll be required to maintain a higher minimum amount in the account, and have limited check-writing options. Whether you’re a small law firm or large, follow the steps in this guide, and get on the path to financial clarity and success. Each client’s trust balance has a detailed ledger showing specific transactions for every single inflow and outflow. Lawyers are required to deposit all short-term and nominal client funds in an IOLTA account. They mustn’t deposit client funds in accounts that do not bear interests, or in their business accounts. Creating invoices that explain what funds were removed from a trust and what remains in their trust account. By analyzing the data from these reports, you can focus on monthly revenue goals, or the amount of money you want to make each month.

  • Major consultancies have also expanded legal-related services, like contract management, stateside.
  • Additionally, an accountant who can use data to make informed decisions about the firm’s financial health is highly desirable.
  • Excellent law firm accounting is to give data that is valuable on the state of your company.
  • As a result, you take comfort in allowing yourself to offload financial tasks and turn your attention exclusively to business development and legal cases.
  • A legal accountant and bookkeeper will work towards the same goal — they both want to keep your law firm financially healthy and built for the future.
  • That’s why we’ve put together everything you need to know about law firm accounting and bookkeeping.