FINDING A LEGAL BOOKKEEPER

on 20 October, 2010 Email this Email this - Print this Print this

It can be a hard decision – how do I choose a legal bookkeeper? Questions to consider include:

  • What experience they should have? Can it just be an accounts clerk?
  • Or should it be someone with an accountancy qualification?
  • Or someone who claims to have legal bookkeeping experience?
  • Will I be OK with a friend or a family member?
  • Can bookkeeping be outsourced or should the bookkeeper be full time in house?
  • What sort of accounts packages experience do they need?

These are things that need to be taking into consideration when finding a legal bookkeeper.

EXPERIENCE

A bookkeeper needs to have legal bookkeeping experience. It’s essential. And the more years experience – the better. Think about it. If you needed lifesaving open-heart surgery – whom would you prefer? The doctor who has read all about it? Or the doctor with the experience of actually Doing it?!

RULES

They should be conversant with the Solicitors Accounts Rules (SARs) to ensure breaches are spotted and rectified immediately. Be aware that just because you have an accountancy qualification – it doesn’t mean that you can carry out solicitors bookkeeping as you need to know your SARs. Some solicitors think its good idea to use their accountants to do their books – but unfortunately accountants are not legal bookkeepers. They would not have had the day to day experience of problems and queries.  They are also not the best at introducing systems and procedures and organising daily posting paperwork.

SOFTWARE

Legal bookkeepers have probably experienced using many of the Legal accounts packages that are on the market. And there are lots of accountancy software for solicitors. LOTS. Therefore engaging a bookkeeper who may not have used your Legal package may not be a problem as most systems work in more or less the same way. The only difference might be that some are more sophisticated than others and some come with case management systems. If you have software support, then anything that the bookkeeper is not sure of they can contact the support for help. Spreadsheets can also be used to keep financial information however it is not ideal because after a certain point, it becomes cumbersome. So it is recommended that if you are serious about your solicitors firm, that you use a small legal package.

THE JOB OF A LEGAL BOOKKEEPER

On a daily basis all financial transactions should be processed. The bookkeeper will ensure that these have been carried out in accordance with the SARs. Anything that is found that may be in breach will be rectified immediately. The bookkeeper will ensure systems and procedures are put in place so breaches do not happen. This could be anything from transfers of funds from client account to paying bills or credit balances in office account.

Client bank reconciliations are also done in accordance with the SARs every 5 weeks. Although the office reconciliation does not have to be done for SARs purposes it is important that this too is reconciled to spot discrepancies and also so that management reports can be produced. A good legal bookkeeper will ensure that at month end all bank recs are done, postings are processed, the month closed off and management reports produced.

Legal bookkeepers assist with the yearly audit. They ensure throughout the year that there is relevant financial paperwork and notes to help with the audit i.e bank statements, paying in books, copy cheques and posting slips.

WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW – CAN HURT YOU

A few years ago, a firm of accountants were doing the books for a solicitor. They had an SAR visit. The bookkeeper at the time was asked for the client bank reconciliation. The response was “What is a bank reconciliation?” This is when it came to light that there may be some further problems. The firm’s books were looked at and it was found that bank reconciliations had never been done. No office postings had ever been made and bills had never been recorded on the ledger!

If you don’t know what to look out for, how can you be sure your cashier / bookkeeper is doing what they’re supposed to be doing? We recommend either you or someone in your firm knows how to find and look out for a good cashier who knows their stuff. Test them. And if they don’t come up to scratch – don’t chance it. It’s your law firm and your livelihood on the line. They’ll just go and wreak havoc elsewhere – and you’ll be left with nothing.

Boogles Ltd

Sept 2010


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Topics: bookkeeping · outsourcing · reducing overheads
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