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Case Study: Helping High-Profile Law Firm Avoid Costly Mistakes

March 1, 2018 / by Lori Kunkel posted in Southern New Hampshire, Case Study Blogs, Law Firm

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Founded in 2013, Wilkenfeld, Herendeen & Atkinson (WHA) is a Washington, D.C., law firm that specializes in cases involving workplace discrimination or harassment. Extensive media coverage of certain cases raised WHA's profile, making it essential that the firm avoid bookkeeping errors that could result in negative publicity.

Earning Clients' Trust
Law firms are bound by strict regulations regarding the use of funds that clients furnish for future use, also called trust accounts. It's not uncommon for firms to make mistakes when handling trust accounts, particularly during the hectic startup phase. That can result in penalties.

Fines for mishandling trust accounts would have dealt WHA a severe blow due to its prominent public profile. To avoid that, the firm sought outsourced bookkeeping services. A referral led them to Lori Kunkel, Managing Director of Supporting Strategies | Southern New Hampshire in 2015.

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Managing Client Trust Accounts: A Back-Office Balancing Act

February 20, 2018 / by Naman Trivedi posted in NYC - Midtown, Bookkeeping Services, Law Firm

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For lawyers managing a small or independent practice, maintaining client trust accounts (CTAs) can present serious challenges.

Attorneys establishing a practice must set up a CTA or accounts designated specifically for funds that a client or third party pays against future services, such as advances on fees, costs, legal settlement amounts or escrowed amounts (e.g. for business or real estate transactions). Such accounts must be kept separate from personal or business bank accounts.

Rules governing the above accounts vary by state, but one thing is true across the board: The rules are complex, and violations can result in significant consequences — even disbarment.

In our work with growing law practices, we've identified several guidelines that are key to managing CTAs:

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Getting the Most out of a Law Firm's Back-Office Budget

December 14, 2017 / by Naman Trivedi posted in NYC - Midtown, Law Firm

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If you are starting a law firm, or have an established firm and are looking to expand, you might find invaluable support where you'd least expect it.

Outsourced bookkeeping services.

A Scalable Solution
One of the great challenges for any new law firm is deciding how much to budget for full-time staff. Given the importance of thorough, accurate trust account management, there might be a temptation to bring on a full-time bookkeeper from day one. But if your billable hours are lean early on, you could find yourself with a budget shortfall.

On the other hand, if you try doing the books yourself, or if you delegate the job to a paralegal or office manager, you run the risk of making a crucial mistake with billing or trust accounts.

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They've Redesigned Clio — and It Works Great with QBO

December 5, 2017 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Tampa Bay, Law Firm

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At Supporting Strategies, we're always on the lookout for industry-specific software integrations that can improve bookkeeping efficiency. Clio, which is designed for the legal profession, is a great example.

A New State of the Art
If your law firm isn't already using the cloud, you need to make the switch now — particularly if you have a startup or a small independent outfit. My colleague Pete Denholm already made a case for the cloud, with an airtight argument that would make any lawyer proud. So rather than relitigate that topic, I'm going to focus solely on the advantages of Clio.

Why Clio? "If you are shopping for law practice management software for your firm," lawyerist.com noted in a five-star review, "Clio should be on your short list of options to test."

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Business Changes Can Lead to Bookkeeping Challenges

August 10, 2017 / by Jeff Orchard posted in Tampa Bay, Bookkeeping Services, Law Firm

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At every growth stage, companies tend to accentuate the positive and project the best possible outcome for investors. But as any good business attorney knows, most investors also want to minimize risk by eliminating as many unknowns as possible. The best way to do that is by preparing solid financial records.

Here's a look at what should be a company's top financial priorities at each stage.

Planning a Successful Launch
Even small businesses need to raise funds to get off the ground. Determining how much money you need to get started — and who might be willing to provide it — is one of the most daunting aspects of starting a business. It's important that you secure enough financing not only to open the doors but also to sustain you through the startup phase.

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Why Smart Law Firms Use the Cloud for Case Management

July 18, 2017 / by Pete Denholm posted in Northeast Florida, Business Advice, Law Firm

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Large law firms have long had advantages over new or small law firms — an established name, existing clients, support staff and resources. But newer technology has helped level the playing field for small law firms when it comes to system infrastructure and management.

Small startups are often in a better position to take advantage of cloud-based case-management and accounting software. Harness the power of the cloud, and your firm can move with speed and efficiency well beyond your numbers.

A Case Management System Case Study
Let's say your firm lands a new client that posts an initial $10,000 deposit to handle their case. That money immediately is recorded in the trust account on your case-management system. From that point on, every increment of time, whether it's 15 hours or 15 minutes, gets logged into the case-management system for that particular case. The time of anyone at your firm who is working on the case is recorded at the appropriate billable rate. You can also invoice your clients directly out of that system while accounting for all relevant expenses.

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The Top Three Things to Consider When Starting a Law Practice

May 23, 2017 / by Pete Denholm posted in Northeast Florida, Tips for Startups, Law Firm

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You've built up considerable experience working for a large law firm. Now you're ready to fulfill your lifetime ambition by starting your own practice. While you relish the freedom, you also understand you can no longer rely on a large support staff to manage the day-to-day responsibilities of running the business.

From here on out, it's your business — and your responsibility. Here are three things that are critical to keep an eye on. 

1. Trust Accounts
We've listed this No. 1 for a reason (in fact, there's an entire Supporting Strategies blog post devoted to the topic). Every bar association has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to errors involving trust accounts. If your trust accounts aren't appropriately reconciled or the record-keeping is not clean — meaning that you can't attribute the full balance to every individual client by dollar amount — then your state bar will sanction you and take your license. And the bar can conduct an audit without warning, at any time.

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Why Proper Bookkeeping for Trust Accounts Is Vital

April 11, 2017 / by Jane Lvovskiy posted in Bookkeeping Services, Brooklyn - Staten Island, Law Firm

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If you're an attorney, careless bookkeeping with trust accounts could ruin your career.

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