Who to Hire?

Define Your Expectations

In engaging a bookkeeper, it is imperative that you define your expectations from the onset of employment with your firm. You should put your mind to some of the following functions that are normally carried out by a legal bookkeeper:

  • – day to day recording of all trust and general account transactions undertaken by your practice;
  • – reconciling and balancing monthly trust and general bank accounts;
  • – preparing and posting of the Statements of Account (fee billings);
  • – maintaining client’s trust ledger, accounts receivable sub-ledger and accounts payable accounts;
  • – preparing payroll;
  • – preparing necessary government remittances such as GST, PST, WCB and payroll deduction remittances;
  • – preparing periodic financial statements; and
  • – organizing, maintaining accurate records for the required retention periods.

 

Write a Job Description

Once you have defined your expectations, write a proper job description, and communicate all your expectations to the potential candidate.

 

Qualifications

Knowledge of law firm processes and procedures – It is extremely important that the bookkeeper possess a good working knowledge of law firm processes and procedures. Candidates from another business sector such as retail or industry will not be familiar with the unique processes of trust bookkeeping in a law firm and will not be able to anticipate the types and amounts of disbursements typical of a law practice.

Technological Skill – If your practice utilizes legal accounting software instead of a more generic accounting package, it is important that the successful candidate is familiar with your type of software. If not, you may need to provide the necessary training.

Analytical Skills – Good bookkeepers should possess above-average analytical skills as they are often required to identify and rectify discrepancies in the course of their duties.

Communication Skills – Bookkeepers should possess good communication and people skills as they need to work with members of your staff, other members of the profession, clients, and banking staff. They must be able to convey information about any trust or general account transaction undertaken by your practice.

Ability to Anticipate Needs – A competent bookkeeper will even anticipate the year-end requirements of your business for preparation of year-end financials. This in turn may save you outside accounting fees.

Knowledge of Law Society Rules – Lastly, it is highly recommended that the successful candidate has received some training in Law Society Rules.

 

Where to Look

Once you have made a realistic assessment of your practice’s needs and defined your expectations, you will need to hire the best candidate available that you can afford.

Chartered Professional Accountants Saskatchewan hosts a Careers page on their website where advertisements may be posted. Online employment websites and LinkedIn may also be options for seeking a suitable candidate.

Employment agencies can be expensive. If you intend to use an employment agency check to be sure that they do not just refer all those who respond to ads.

Accounting firms, particularly larger ones, also provide bookkeeping services for businesses who require bookkeeping services but prefer not to hire an employee.

 

The Hiring Interview

Here are a few tips for the hiring interview:

1. Ask if the candidate has worked with a lawyer before. If so, call the lawyers. Trust accounting for lawyers can be more complex than accounting for many businesses. Experience is not everything, but it counts for a lot.

2. Before the interview, determine how much assistance you need from the bookkeeper. If you have a busy practice with many trust transactions, you will probably need someone who is available more than once a month. (Trust transactions should be recorded within seven days.)

3. The following questions will test whether the candidate has had experience working with a lawyer:

    • – Do lawyers charge GST? (The candidate should know that GST is chargeable.) (See the modules on GST.)
    • – How often must a lawyer’s accounting records be reconciled? (They must be reconciled at least once a month.
    • – What is the difference between a pooled and a separate trust account? (In most cases, client trust funds are deposited to a pooled trust account, with interest accruing to the Law Foundation. A lawyer, however, may obtain specific instructions from a client to set up and deposit funds into a separate trust account, with interest accruing to the client.)
    • – What is the correct procedure if a shortage is discovered in a trust account? (You must replace the shortage within 3 business days and refer to Rule 1526 for further requirements.)
    • – Do you know where to find the latest trust accounting rules online?
    • – What familiarity do you have with lawyer accounting software packages such as ESILaw or PCLaw?