5 Best Practices for Creating a Strong Attorney-Accountant Relationship
Building an Effective Relationship with Your Legal Accountant
As your law firm grows, you will likely need the consultation of a legal accountant to properly and efficiently maintain financial statements, outline each client’s retainer account, handle payroll taxes, and sustain an understanding of the business’ accounting books.
Yet, how can you guarantee that your business relationship with your accountant will be a good fit?
While every business situation is different, one underlying truth remains - if the relationship remains nourished, it can be mutually beneficial in creating win-win opportunities for both the attorney and the accountant. Just like any other type of personal relationship, building a strong foundation is essential for long-term success, but different relationships take different forms of commitment. So, to help you create a business relationship that will stand the test of continuous competition and inevitable predicaments along the way, Accounting Girl of St. Louis has outlined some of the most essential practices for success.
1. Establish a Balance of Expectations and Approaches
When building any close business relationship, it is first essential to determine how you will balance your work styles and align your expectations. Cultivating equal approaches to how you will conduct business together will in turn ensure high-quality work and exceptional service on both sides. As a lawyer, it is helpful to understand what information your accountant will routinely need and if there is a particular way they would like it organized. In other words, do they utilize specific programs? How do they track written statements and other records? Likewise, as an accountant, it’s our job to understand what type of accounts are necessary for your specific area(s) of practice. Having this understanding of how each of you work the most efficiently will encourage a more cohesive and stronger relationship in the long run.
2. Create a Genuine Relationship
Many experts agree that the strongest relationships in the workplace are those that are nurtured. They believe that both parties are more likely to spend a greater amount of time and effort in their work, have a greater appreciation for the other person, and tend to provide higher quality referrals to provide the other with a greater number of opportunities as they arise. This is particularly true for the collaboration of smaller companies who have the ability to form stronger, tightknit connections compared to those who are bogged down by the expansive networks within the larger corporate world. Your accountant should take interest in you as a company, and as an individual. Something as small as taking the time to ask what someone’s personal interests are outside of the office can go a long way in starting to build a genuine relationship.
3. Stay Informed to Ensure Long-term Success
For any business leader to be truly successful, it is essential that they are constantly honing their skills and expertise to provide a sense of thought leadership for their organization and employees. This prepares them to not only stay ahead in the competitive world of business, but also prepares them for any potential predicaments and allows them to address such with focus and grace. Not only should both you and your legal accountant be thinking ahead in this way for the success of your own businesses, it is also important that each of you keep each other informed of what new innovations and ideas you may be bringing to your organization to prepare them for what changes may be constructed in the near future. This may involve simply bringing up thoughts during a scheduled meeting, or you both could take advantage of local opportunities for educational growth, social understanding, or business networking. The ultimate objective is to have an innate recognition of what is and could be happening for your organizations, and be present when those changes are occurring.
4. Be Mutually Prepared for Potential Negative Outcomes
As Maya Angelou once said, it is always best to be “Hoping for the best, [be] prepared for the worst, and [be] unsurprised by anything in-between.” While it is always ideal to be fully optimistic about the outcomes for the businesses and individual clients you serve, it is vital that you and your accountant are prepared for even the worst of circumstances. Being that much of the accountant-lawyer relationship is both preventative and reactionary, you both most likely already understand the steps to reducing the fire-storm that may be unleashed if a business is found to have under-reported financial information, or committed other forms of illegal activity. This includes what and how to discuss information with shareholders and government entities like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
5. For Referrals, Ensure You Serve Each Other’s Best Interests
Much like understanding one another’s expectations and approaches to your own work, it is also important that you share what characteristics define your ideal client. This means understanding what you do, the types of client relationships you are looking for, the topics that interest you, what it means to have your client’s best interest at heart, and ethical expectations and practices. When such elements are well-known on either side, you each are more likely to provide the other with stronger recommendations for potential long-term clients. You both will not only see greater growth, but also growth that is far more sustainable than the traditional referral process.
The key to building and maintaining a strong relationship with your legal accountant is being willing to be fully committed to the entire process. With over 20 years of experience and strong customer relationships, Accounting Girl knows what it takes to work closely and grow with the businesses we provide services to. Check out just some of the things clients are saying about their experience with Accounting Girl, LLC here, and stay up-to-date with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.