Accounting for Lawyers: What to look for in a legal bookkeeper

Legal accounting will let you analyze and collect information to make decisions with data in mind. These numbers are based on money that is coming into your firm and leaving your firm. If proper attorney bookkeeping occurs, then the law firm can track what money is coming in and going out of your firm. It will be challenging to scale your growth without understanding the money coming in and out. Aside from the income tax issues noted above, the treatment of client expenses may have implications for business license purposes.

  • Attach a copy of Form 8716 to Form 1065, Form 1120S, or Form 1120 for the first tax year for which the election is made.
  • The fastest way to receive a tax refund is to file electronically and choose direct deposit, which securely and electronically transfers your refund directly into your financial account.
  • IOLTA, accounts are formed to store your clients’ funds apart from your primary business or operating account.

It’ll save you time, money, stress, and potentially legal headaches. You’ll have accurate financial statements on hand, which can show you how your practice is performing at any given moment. And it will be a lot easier to work with bookkeepers, accountants, new partners, and buyers, if you ever decide to sell the business. By using sound bookkeeping practices to keep accurate records and consistently review the firm’s financial statements on a monthly or weekly basis, you’ll see your firm’s true financial picture. Committing to accounting for law firms will allow you to be better equipped to identify growth opportunities.

What to look for in a legal bookkeeper

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. If you’re just starting out and think you’ve set up your accounting the wrong way, talk to a professional accountant or bookkeeper with experience dealing with IOLTA.

As a lawyer, when you receive cash that belongs to a client, you are obligated to hold those funds in a client trust account separate from your own money. These are commonly known as IOLTA accounts (interest on lawyers trust accounts) and vary by state (and also check with your local bar association). Cash accounting is also beneficial because you can look at your bank balance at any time to understand the amount of money available.

So, which method is right for you?

All your tasks will get done without any hassles, in a timely manner, and without having to worry about errors in reporting. 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. We shall now move on to getting a grip over some basic terms related to accounting, in the next section. Accounting and the law are both professions that attract many college students. Each field offers strong income potential, upward mobility, and a variety of career paths within the profession.

  • If your business has a predecessor entity, include the gross receipts of the predecessor entity from the 3 tax-year period when figuring average gross receipts.
  • When you have administrative tasks to be done such as capturing transactions, reconciling accounts, or generating invoices, you might want to hire a bookkeeper.
  • However, every law firm owner needs to know what bookkeeping and legal accounting are for their business.
  • The IRS is committed to serving our multilingual customers by offering OPI services.
  • It’s also a good place to store money you’re setting aside for taxes and emergencies.
  • Amounts set aside for savings and retirement should be approached similarly to salary.

If you lack professionalism, you will lose clients, referrals, and opportunities to grow your firm. It is easy to get caught up in your practice as it is a law firm. Every business gets busy, and it is easy to get distracted by the work you are doing for your clients. However, your law practice is still a business, so you will need to treat it as a business.

Accounting for Lawyers: Four Basics You Need To Know

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. The income statement helps law firms decide if they can generate profit by decreasing costs, increasing revenues, or both. It also grades the efficiency of the strategies employed by the firm at the beginning of a financial period. Business owners and other executives can reference this statement or document to assess the success of their strategies.

what accounting method does my law firm use

This is essentially FICA and Medicare, only your payment covers both a withholding from your wage and the matching contribution from your company. If you have employees, you’ll have to pay Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA). Federal insurance contributions consist of the social security and Medicare taxes you withhold from your employee’s pay and match with your own contributions. The IRS doesn’t require you to keep records of certain expenses under $75, but we still recommend that to be safe, you keep digital copies of all records.

Best Law Firm Accounting and Bookkeeping Services

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. Below, we outline common legal accounting mistakes for you to avoid. Bringing in professionals is a common practice among law firms, and it can help ease your worries and be reassuring.

what accounting method does my law firm use