Accounting

Lozelle Mathai Q&A: Closing Your Books

LeanLaw Lozelle Mathai smiling and leaning against parking meter

Lozelle Mathai is the founder of Closing Your Books, LLC, a personalized cloud-based accounting firm in Newberg, Oregon, that focuses on women business owners or women handling the financial aspect of their family business. We concentrate on accounting, bookkeeping support, accounting education, and financial management services.

Why do you focus on women?

Because women think differently about money. I find that we are either engaged or disengaged with money, no in between. Now, throw a family member into the mix (spouse, child, elder parent), and the financial awareness changes. Women want to ensure her business or her husband’s business is making enough money to support the family.

More and more I am noticing that not only are women becoming entrepreneurs, but they are also taking over the accounting task of their husbands’ law firms. I see a lot of this in solo and small boutique firms. Sometimes the wife is a paralegal, has an accounting background or she is a lawyer herself and wants to be involved with the financial aspect of the business.

I respect that.

What are your best practices for onboarding a new client?

In my firm, our best practice to onboarding new clients is to schedule enough time for the onboarding meeting and to listen. Listen to what the client is not saying.

Why?

Because once you listen to what the client is not saying, you pick up on issues/challenges that were not discussed during the discovery call. These issues/challenges can cause the onboarding meeting to get extended. I prefer to have too much time allocated, than not enough. My goal is to leave the onboarding meeting with everything that I need to get the process started and with limited back and forth afterward.

Law firms have unique forms of compensation. How do you help them organize and execute?

We assist with the process, by suggesting that the firm documents the compensation. This document should include when the compensation will be paid and the necessary criteria for such payments. My access to these documents depends on my engagement with the law firm.

How do you advise your law firm clients with regard to IOLTA trust accounts?

With regards to compliance: Managing and maintaining IOLTA accounts are governed at the state level. First thing I advise clients is together we familiarize ourselves with the specific state laws and requirements that must be met.

With regards to financials: I educate my clients on the need to separate the IOLTA trust accounts on the Balance Sheet. This keeps each client’s retainer account clean without commingling of operational funds and IOLTA funds. And the firm is able to see each client’s account at a glance.

How are law firm clients different from other clients?

My law firm clients are very direct and very time sensitive. They get right to the point. I love it. They understand that time equals money, so they tend to respect my time. We respect one another’s time.

Why did you become a QuickBooks ProAdvisor?

QuickBooks is a household name among business owners. Being a QuickBooks ProAdvisor allows me to stay abreast of any changes or improvements within the system. I need to be in the know, so I can pass this information on to my clients.

What financial information should an attorney be reviewing to ensure her practice is fiscally healthy? With what frequency should this data be looked at?

For my solo law clients, I ask them to review the following financials:
Quarterly: Cash Flow and Analysis of budget vs actual
Monthly: Income Statement, Balance Sheet, Unbilled time reports

For My small practice clients, I ask them to review the following financials:
Monthly: the same as solo, but also Attorney Revenue Report. Attorney Revenue Report includes unbillable hours, billed and collected amounts.
Quarterly: the same as a solo practice, including a cash flow statement.

With today’s practice management software, there are so many ways you can look at financial data. If my clients want a certain report included in their monthly package, I include it. It warms my heart when my clients are as engaged with their finances as I am. I always say, “no one should care more about your money, than you.”

If a principal attorney were to look only at one report, which is the most important?

The Attorney Revenue Report because Cash is king. The principal attorney wants to know what clients paid when they paid and how much is left to be paid.

We have a slew of clients moving into QuickBooks Online from non-QuickBooks accounting platforms. What guidance can you offer to help them manage this migration?

I tell my clients to get help, do not try to take up this undertaking by themselves. I advise them to hire a firm, my firm, that knows how to perform this task. They want to ensure that it is done correctly and that all financial information has migrated.

Given an inherent bias that folks have who use QuickBooks Desktop over QuickBooks Online, what do you say to those considering moving online? Is the bias valid?

I would tell the firm that the online platform allows for more efficient and real-time data with one touch. The days of coming into the office to run reports are over. An attorney can be on vacation or sitting in their backyard while working.

More and more practice management and billing softwares are being designed for direct integration with QuickBooks Online.

What makes QuickBooks Online a better tool for small law firms?

QuickBooks Online has become the go-to among law firms for accounting software. I believe this is due to their strong relationship with application developers, which allows for smooth and stress-free integration.

How is QuickBooks Online affecting the accounting community? Is it changing how bookkeepers and accountants interact with their clients?

I believe QuickBooks Online has brought the awareness of how the field of technology and the field of accounting must work together to make all industries efficient.

My firm has become our clients’ accounting advocate. We are their sounding board in both their financial direction and their technology direction. We consult with them. We are a part of their team.

Good bookkeeping seems to be about repeatable workflows. How do you get an organization trained when you start working with them?

Open Communication is key. My firm doesn’t use the word “train,” we use the word “educate.” We are educating one another on the processes of making the workflow successful. My firm always starts with Why? Why is this current workflow not working? How? How do we go about improving it with everyone on board with the decision? Workflows will only work when everyone is committed to them.

For more information about Lozelle Mathai and Closing Your Books, LLC, you can go to her website.

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