California Lawyers Association

Client Trust Accounting: A Balancing Act

September 2023

By Hellen Hong, Esq. 

Client trust accounting is a balancing act. To keep from stumbling over, you have to keep the ledgers up to date, checked and balanced.

As lawyers, we are not taught basic accounting in law school. Yet, as any law firm owner knows, accounting and financial management are crucial skills. As lawyers, we are businesspeople and entrepreneurs. We must understand financial management to make strategic decisions, stay compliant with our ethical duties, and succeed in business.

Like many lawyers, I learned accounting through experience. As Executive Director of a legal aid law firm, I had to learn basic accounting for trust accounts, funders, and auditors. I like the exactness of accounting, especially since the law is not so precise. But I know how challenging it can be, and I want to support other attorneys and business leaders by helping them master this difficult balancing act.

That’s why I’m thrilled to partner with the State Bar of California to provide a hands-on session on client trust accounting. I’ll be presenting on September 23 at California Lawyers Association’s Annual Meeting in San Diego.

I will cover the basics of State Bar rules, terms, and forms with Jennifer Stalvey, a principal program analyst and Certified Public Accountant at the State Bar of California. Because the best way to learn is by doing, we will have participants perform a three-way reconciliation. We will show you what to consider when using software and share resources and best practices. You’ll walk away from the session with experience and tools you can use in your practice.

With the State Bar’s new Client Trust Accounting Protection Program (CTAPP), knowledge of proper client trust accounting procedures has never been more important. The program, which went into effect with the 2023 licensing fee schedule, requires lawyers to register their client trust accounts, complete an annual self-assessment of client trust account management practices, and certify that they understand and are complying with the requirements.

If you attend our program, you will also receive 1.25 hours of MCLE credit.

Hope to see you there! 

Hellen Hong is CEO of CalBar Affinity, which operates CalBar Connect. CalBar Connect is a CLA member benefits provider that offers exclusive discounts and special deals on goods and services for California attorneys. All net revenues from CalBar Connect fund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, civics engagement efforts, and support legal aid organizations and fellowships for law students and new lawyers through programs through CLA and California Lawyers Foundation

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