2.11 Who to Hire?
Define Your Expectations
In engaging a bookkeeper, it is important to define your expectations from the onset of his or her 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 ledgers, accounts receivable sub-ledgers and accounts payable accounts
- preparing payroll
- preparing necessary government remittances such as GST and payroll deduction remittances
- preparing periodic financial statements and
- organizing and maintaining accurate records for the required retention periods
Write a Job Description
Once you have defined your expectations, write a job description and communicate all your expectations to potential candidates.
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.
Secondly, your bookkeeper should be familiar with the type of software you are using (PCLaw™, EsiLaw or Clio). If not, you may need to provide the necessary training.
Good bookkeepers should possess above-average analytical skills as they are often required to identify and rectify discrepancies in the course of their duties. He or she should possess good communication and people skills as they need to work with members of your staff, other members of the profession, clients and staff of an approved depositary. He or she must be able to convey information about any trust or general account transaction undertaken by your practice.
A good bookkeeper will anticipate the year-end requirements of your business for preparation of year-end financials and your annual Law Society filings. This in turn may save you outside accounting fees.
Lastly, it is highly recommended that the successful candidate has received training in the Rules of the Law Society of Alberta.
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 that you can afford.
Old-fashioned newspaper ads may still be your best search tool, or more currently, Craigslist or Kijiji. Online employment websites—including networking websites like LinkedIn-- may also be an option. Employment agencies can be expensive. If you intend to use an employment agency, ensure they do more than just referring all those who respond to ads. It may also be worthwhile to check with employment referral services associated with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta.
The Law Society maintains a list of bookkeepers, available upon request. This list is provided without any recommendation or endorsement and it is up to lawyers to conduct due diligence, including asking for references, to evaluate bookkeepers from this list.