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The Legal Bookkeeper: Your Financial Nurse

Updated: Apr 16

By: Keith Hill Jr.

Legal Bookkeeping Preparation Essentials

In accounting and medical surgery, skipping the foundational steps can be catastrophic. While it might seem unusual to draw a parallel between legal bookkeeping and health care, stay with me for a moment and let’s imagine ourselves in a hospital, awaiting surgery.

The Critical Check-In

Imagine this: you find yourself walking into a pristine hospital. There's an important surgery scheduled, and you are the patient. You walk past waiting patients and approach the reception; fill out your forms and complete the check-in. A few moments later the receptionist calls your name and gestures for you to enter the operating room. But something seems wrong. You then realize you haven’t been prepped. No nurse has reviewed your vitals, and no one came to ensure your overall readiness for the procedure. Nonetheless, you do as you’re told, and you walk right into the operating room, and the doctor greets you, standing behind the operating table, with a scalpel in hand, and says, “Good morning! Let’s get started!”

The thought of walking straight into surgery without the necessary preparation is unthinkable and irresponsible. If you can appreciate the need for the role of preparation in this scenario, consider the same relevance if you approach an accountant without seeing a bookkeeper first. This order of operations is especially true when dealing with the financials of a law firm.

Order of Operations: Bookkeeper Before Accountant

The far-fetched scenario above, unsettling as it is in a medical setting, provides a clear analogy when we pivot to the world of legal accounting. Imagine entering the realm of financial decisions for a law firm without the crucial step of bookkeeping, the process that prepares and organizes financial and client data. Just as the nurse is essential for prepping a patient for surgery, a legal bookkeeper is indispensable in laying the groundwork for meaningful accounting and Law Society obligations in a firm.

In the intricate world of legal finance, bookkeepers act as meticulous preparers. We are responsible for logging each financial transaction which includes the movement of money in and out of each client trust account. This attention to detail is not merely about organization, it's also about compliance. In legal accounting, especially, the stakes are high. Errors can not only result in financial discrepancies, but they can also lead to compliance issues.

The Accountant's Role: Surgery Based on Bookkeeper's Prep

Once this groundwork is laid by the legal bookkeeper, the accountant steps into the picture, much like a surgeon who operates based on the preliminary checks and preparations done by the nursing team. The accountant, equipped with advanced knowledge and expertise, relies on the data prepared by the bookkeeper to analyze, interpret, and provide strategic insights and information. They ensure that the firm remains compliant with evolving regulations, they also optimize tax positions and offer advice that can impact the firm's fiscal health and growth strategies.

But, what if that first step, the meticulous bookkeeping, is skipped? The accountant would be working with raw, unorganized data, leading to inefficiencies, exorbitant accounting costs, delays, and a higher potential for lost opportunities – as many financial decisions must be made within a tight timeline. In essence, bypassing the bookkeeper in the financial process is as reckless as bypassing the nurse before a medical procedure.

The Essential Role of Legal Bookkeepers for Compliance and Growth

Legal accounting requires a commitment to precision. The complexities of legal financial transactions, combined with the nuances of regulatory compliance, make bookkeeping that much more important in law practice. As lawyers know, every detail in a case can be pivotal; similarly, every financial transaction, no matter how minute, plays a role in the broader financial health and integrity of a legal firm, especially considering client funds.

For law firms aiming for both compliance and fiscal growth, understanding and appreciating the role of legal bookkeepers is essential. Just as every successful legal case hinges on the careful preparation of documents, every sound financial decision relies on the meticulous work of bookkeepers. And just as no patient should be ushered directly into an operating room without proper preparation, no financial package should be prepared without the foundational work completed by a competent and reliable legal bookkeeper, particularly with a law firm.


Keith Hill Jr. is the Principal at Bookkeeping Matters Inc (BMI). For over a decade, Bookkeeping Matters has been fulfilling bookkeeping needs for lawyers throughout Ontario and other provinces. As a former Legal Accounting professor, Keith has also positioned BMI as a premier provider of online legal accounting training. Specializing in several practice management software, Keith and his team can be contacted at: / 1-800-893-2820 /

©2023 Bookkeeping Matters Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction with credit is permitted.


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