It used to be said that people could go into a busy room and identify the law firm accounting individuals—they were a specific breed of people: great with numbers, but maybe not so much with people; very plain or wall flower in their approach to social environments; very meticulous and possibly even OCD; and without a doubt a very serious bunch.
There is certainly a particular stereotype about being in law firm accounting, and this perception is also seen on many of the campuses; often times, the accounting major is perceived as having a lower starting salary, more solo or introverted than other professions, more formal, rigid, rule oriented and reserved and possibly more a “yes-man” position.
On the other hand, accountants were perceived as being blunt, competitive, task and detail-oriented, ordered, and diligent with good leadership skills, self-motivated and cautious and extremely conscientious. With a list like that, the first thing that comes to the mind of a business owner is a sense of reliability and a comfort in knowing that someone detail-oriented will be supporting their team – and for law firm accounting, a sense that the accountants working with them have been diligent enough to find out how to support a legal firm.
Where do accountants work and what do they do?
Part of breaking down stereotypes around the career of accounting is sharing what accountants actually do – they are no longer solo workers pushing paper and adding numbers – the work of financial and accounting management is vast, fast paced and can contain elements of excitement and risk. In fact, financial and accounting professionals work in and support every industry, from the basic retail stores to the Fortune 500 companies, to the government agencies—even law firm accounting has become a specialized environment. The environment and the specialized training, knowledge and expertise of each professional working in the field of law firm accounting will help dictate the level of rigidity or flexibility in his/her job, allowing for all personalities to find their fits in the financial and accounting world.
What an accountant does specifically, however, needs to be answered on a person by person and industry specific basis. For example, some accountants choose to be part of a team that manages other financial professionals, acting within their business as a coach, mentor or project manager. Others in law firm accounting choose rather to be financial managers for their clients, sharing with them the knowledge and expertise they need to make educated moves that impact their companies.
Some accountants want mundane, redundant type work, such as ongoing preparation of a company’s financial statements, maintaining ledgers, supervising employees, addressing payroll, tax filing and general financial management from a desk. Others in law firm accounting want to lead multidisciplinary teams, becoming an active team member, supporting financial decisions, preparing risk management assessments, analyzing, creating or fixing business processes to streamline operations, etc. The jobs are as vast as the different environments and as numerous as the types of personalities of accountants today.
Whether you look into a team member of a law firm accounting or a self-employed accountant, you can bring an invaluable resource of knowledge to a business by hiring or outsourcing to an accountant– so much of what helps a business determine its financial health is placed on what the accountant can contribute. A good accountant can keep a business operating without any financial and accounting process challenges, always maintaining the books, supporting other staff and ensuring the current financial picture is clear for the business owner. A good accountant becomes a vital resource to guide a business owner in successfully growing his/her dream.