Financial Fluency for Lawyers

This course is the result of talking with dozens of lawyers who successfully transitioned to business and asking the simple question, what is the one thing you wished you were better prepared for when you moved over? The Numbers.

Sneak Peak


  • To develop fluency in the language of business;
  • To understand and apply the fundamental accounting equation;
  • To read, grasp, and analyze the information presented in the balance sheet, income statement, statement of cash flows, the notes to the financial statements, any accountants’ report, and Management’s Discussion and Analysis and selected other disclosures in periodic reports that public companies file with the Securities and Exchange Commission;
  • To use time value of money concepts; and 
  • To interpret and negotiate agreements or other legal documents containing accounting terminology or concepts.


This course is CLE approved. Learn more.

  1. The Need for Financial and Accounting Information, the Fundamental Accounting Equation, and Double- Entry Bookkeeping
  2. The Balance Sheet
  3. The Income Statement
  4. The Statement of Cash Flows
  5. Notes to the Financial Statements, Who Establishes and Selects Accounting Principles, Who Establishes Auditing Standards, and Accountants’ Reports Part 1 & Part 2
  6. Periodic Disclosures Under the Federal Securities Laws, Annual Reports, Internal Control Over Financial Reporting, Management’s Discussion and Analysis, and Non-GAAP Metrics
  1. Suggestions for Reading Financial Statements
  2. Financial Accounting Assumptions, Basic Principles, and Modifying Conventions
  3. Depreciation, Inventories, and Goodwill and Intangibles
  4. The Time Value of Money
  5. Legal Agreements Using Accounting Terminology or Concepts
  6. Sources of Financial Accounting Information

Course Instructor

matthew j. barrett

Matthew J. Barrett

Professor Emeritus of Law
Notre Dame Law School

Matthew J. Barrett, retired in 2022 after thirty-two years on the faculty at Notre Dame Law School, where he taught business-related courses including Accounting for Lawyers, Business Associations, Business Basics for Attorneys, Business Planning, Federal Income Taxation, and Not-for-Profit Organizations.  In 2001, the graduating class selected Matt as the Law School’s Distinguished Teacher.

To join the legal academy, Matt successfully transitioned from a position as an associate in the tax group at Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease.  Previously, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Cornelia G. Kennedy on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  Matt earned a B.B.A. in accountancy from the University of Notre Dame in 1982 and a J.D. from Notre Dame Law School in 1985, both summa cum laude.  He remains a member of the Ohio Bar and an Ohio CPA (inactive).

In 1997, Matt became a co-author of the law school texts, Accounting for Lawyers, whose roots trace back to the first casebook on accounting for law students. Four editions later, his texts have been adopted for classroom use at more than 120 different law schools.

Matt met his wife on a blind date.  They have three sons, one daughter, and one daughter-in-law. 

Supplemental Course Content

Book from Our Course Instructor

course book

The text introduces lawyers with no financial fluency to “the language of business.”  Beginning in law school and continuing into the practice of law, lawyers have historically focused on the language of the law.  Along the way, some lawyers have gained financial fluency, but most lawyers have not needed to do so because “the numbers” have always been the province of the client’s accounting department, the client’s outside accounting firm, or both.

Lawyers wishing to transition to business add value when they understand the language of business and the numbers.  Starting with the fundamental accounting equation, the text, often using Starbucks Corporation as an example, explains the basic financial statements, the notes that accompany those statements, generally accepted accounting principles, accountants’ reports, the time value of money, and accounting terminology and concepts that frequently appear in legal agreements.  The text will demystify terms like working capital, current ratio, price-earnings ratio (P/E), EBITDA, net present value (NPV), and discounted cash flow (DCF).  By improving your overall financial acumen, you will feel more comfortable when dealing with the numbers and reach decisions that deliver more value to your organization.