Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Law Firms But Were Afraid to Ask

shaking hands in a business setting

Why Lawyers Are Great Clients

Q: When attorneys die, why do they bury them 600 feet underground?

A: Because deep down, they’re really nice people.

Unfair! Lawyers get a bad rap. Jokes abound, but when you’re in a bad spot, you might really need a lawyer — and that person will be your best friend at your worst moment.

Accounting professionals might see law firm clients as intimidating: They argue in front of judges. They understand how the law works. They are buttoned up professionals.

And you are a professional as well:

  • You understand how accounting works. They don’t.
  • You understand how payroll works — they don’t.
  • You can efficiently administer trust accounting. They, for sure, don’t.

Lawyers are great clients because of their high standards:

  • They make good money.
  • They pay their bills on time.
  • They pay attention to details — just like you.
  • If you do a good job, they will refer you to their colleagues.

Your goal is to become a trusted advisor to the law firm, rather than a commodity. We can help you get there.

What Do Lawyers Know About Business? The good news, as we stated before: attorneys are professionals and they need you. The bad news: attorneys REALLY need you. The bad news: attorneys REALLY need you. All of lawyers’ training is about the law. None of their law school training or CLEs is about running their law firms. They are going on their gut and sometimes, that can only get one so far. The opportunity for trusted business advisory services is high.

How do Lawyers Find Out About Accounting Services? More good news: there are plenty of law firm clients to go around. When you niche with law firms, you become the expert they are looking for and finding new clients becomes easier when they see your positioning. Additionally, proximity to your clients is no longer a requirement. Since we’re all doing business online, your expertise will matter more than your location.  Many attorneys rely on personal referrals to find an accounting pro. Lawyers are naturally suspicious people: it’s their job to find out what’s wrong with something — they will ask tons of questions. Don’t take it personally: this is what they are trained to do. Which is why you need to be prepared and find out about how law firms work.  And they also search online. The search is where you can do the work to help them find you. SEO and Website Optimization Your website and online presence are crucial because they will be working for you 24/7. When you set up your LinkedIn / Website / Professional Affiliation webpages, you realize that those places are the first touch for attorneys who are looking for someone like you.  Those pages won’t close a deal, but rather, they will help you motivate the law firm to contact you. That first phone call or email is the goal of your digital footprint as a trusted accounting advisor for the law firm.  How do attorneys search?  Put yourself in their shoes. Let’s say I’m an attorney in Newport Beach, CA. Into my Google search: “QuickBooks Accounting Newport Beach, law firm”  Now, if you have those words or phrases on your website, you might rank highly for that search. Your goal is to be on the first page of a Google search. Most people never click past that first page. Following are suggestions of content that you could work into your website for advantage in a Google search:

  • QuickBooks bookkeeping law firm
  • Trust accounting law practice
  • Payroll law firm
  • Legal trust accounting
  • Your city, QuickBooks accounting

You get the idea? What are their pain points? What do they need to solve? Who are they? Where are they? All of these phrases must be elegantly woven into your online content — that’s how SEO (search engine optimization) works. Once you have that in place, you can look further into buying LinkedIn Ads, Google Ads, etc. Law Firms to Consider First, you want to think about size. If you’re new to law firm accounting, maybe you’ll want to work with a small law firm — less moving parts. Theoretically. Personas to consider:

  • Solo

Many of these firms struggle with the business aspect of their law practice. They usually do the books themselves or find someone to do just that. That bookkeeper is not thinking about the business as a whole. That’s where you can jump in to become a trusted advisor.

  • Solo plus (support staff)

This attorney has some help, either a paralegal or an office manager.

  • Small (2-5)

One to two law partners along with an office manager or bookkeeper. 

  • Midsize law firms (6 – 30)

This law firm will have more complex invoicing workflow and reporting needs. Trust accounting will be part of the equation — this is where you can shine as a law firm accounting expert. Law Firm Business Model Each law firm has a unique business model: contingency, hourly, fixed fees, possibly a mix of all three — and each has a goal about how they want their law practice to grow. Law firm accounting is complex. Important financial metrics can vary depending on the type of law they practice. They need you as a business advisor, not just for bookkeeping or taxes. How to Talk to Law Firms About Your Services Your job is to find out what a law firm’s pain points are, and speak to that.  Some questions to ask:

  • What is the law firm’s business model?
  • How will they make money?
  • What are their goals? Do they want to grow?
  • What financial metrics do they need to see?
  • How will they use trust accounts?

Many law firms have institutionalized software on servers, rather than in the cloud. Many lawyers still record their time on yellow legal pads. Sometimes, invoices don’t get sent for a month or two. These are all problems that having an accounting pro like you can help solve. Preparation for the first meeting Find out as much as you can about the law firm: what kind of law they practice, how large is the firm, what financial software they use. The point of this meeting is to gain their trust and speak to the pain they have in their accounting workflow. 

Who decides to hire you and how? Hiring an accounting professional is a huge step for the law firm. There are several stakeholders that need to have a say in the decision — and it’s mostly about trust. They want to make sure that their workflows will be easier, more efficient, and better executed by you than whoever they’re working with at the moment. You might be transferring them to a new software. If that’s the case, you’re going to have to convince them as to why they need to learn a new user interface. The people involved in the ultimate decision of hiring a new accounting professional at the law firm include:

  • Managing partner
  • Office manager
  • IT person – validator if there’s change in tech

Conclusion Working with law firms is a great niche to cultivate as an accounting professional. There are so many flavors of law firms, you can explore what feels right to you by size and by the type of law they practice. We would encourage you to focus — you’ll have plenty of opportunities no matter how narrow your niche.

Remember: law firms need you. They want you to be great and solve their problems. And once you’re on board, ask them to refer you to their colleagues. This is not a hard ask once they trust you.When you learn the needs of the attorneys you service, they will be appreciative of your work. You’ll find out that lawyers are the best clients.