You might be called a legal bookkeeper, legal cashier or legal accountant. But whatever your title, your range of duties will be similar. Basically it's your job to keep track of your firm's finances.
So, what will I actually be doing?
If you work in legal accounts, you've chosen a specialist arm of accountancy. You'll be a trained as an accountant but will work for a legal firm.
Your 'to do' list will contain some or all the following tasks:
- Billing clients
- Paying invoices
- Inter account transfers
- Bank reconciliations
- Data entry
- Filing and producing financial reports for management
You'll also help prepare the profit and loss sheets for the annual accounts.
Although you'll need to understand all the general accounting principles and practices, you'll also be specially trained in financial areas unique to the legal profession, like the Solicitors Financial Rules. It's important you know about these areas as some projects you handle might be exclusive to working in legal accounts. For example, trust accounting where money is held safe for someone until certain conditions.
If you work for a big firm, a team of you will share the workload. If you work for a smaller company you might be responsible for all of those tasks along-side some payroll duties too.
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The nitty gritty
The hours are generally good and most of the time you'll work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. There may be the odd time, usually around year end, when it's busy and you might have to work late. It is a desk based job.
Money, money, money
Typically junior legal accounts positions start at around £12,000. With qualifications and experience you can earn between £23,000 and £27,000.
London-based jobs tend to offer more generous salaries and benefits.
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The good points...
Can’t work 9-5 hours? Don’t worry, in this career there are opportunities for part-time and job sharing, and temporary work is often available.
...and the bad
You’ll need a good understanding of both law and finance; hardly the easiest of subjects.
Is there study involved?
To get started at a junior level then you'll usually need five GCSEs, including English and maths. It helps if you have some office administration or accounts experience too.
If you want to go in at a managerial level then you'll be expected to be a fully or part qualified accountant.
You'll get lots of on the job coaching if you go in at a junior level. More experienced colleagues will help you get to grips with computer skills, general office procedures and legal speak. You'll probably be sponsored through some professional exams, most usually the Association of Accounting Technicians(AAT) - either on day release, part time or via distance learning - and some legal courses too.
To reach a managerial level then you'll be expected to study for you professional accountancy exams. It's worth checking whether your firm will sponsor you through courses including the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
Everyone should be given the opportunity to go on regular IT training to keep up to date with the latest developments in financial accounting software - for example Sage, Microsoft Dynamics.
There is plenty of scope to work your way up from a junior accounts position to become the head cashier or even the financial controller.
As you get more experienced you could use your knowledge of the law to move up the legal career ladder instead. It is relatively easy to switch into a more general administrative role but to become a legal eagle you'll need to look into the necessary qualifications - law school and the like.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
Given the specialist nature of the job not only will you have to be good with numbers, you'll have to be interested in the legal side of things too. Other skills that will help set you apart from other job-seekers include:
- Good attention to detail
- Work well under pressure
- Self motivated
- Good presentation skills
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Confident in using computers
- An understanding of legal terminology