Sunday, December 18, 2011

The 7 Most Common PCLaw Errors – Simple posting errors

Simple posting errors are not accounting errors (posting to the wrong account), which would be incorrect no matter what program you are using. The posting errors I am writing about are using the wrong method in PCLaw to post your entry.

Here are just a few examples:

- Using a firm receipt to post to Accounts Receivable (1200)
- I have seen a general cheque where the explanation was something like postage, and the G/L account used was 1000 (I guess the thought was to deduct the postage from the bank)
- using a G/L adjustment to post to a control account (General banks and HST can be posted to, as long as you check the “appear on journal” box)
- using Receive Payment to receive more funds than the amount owing - creates a general retainer – instead, deposit into trust and then immediately pay the receivable
- using Expense Recovery to post hard cost instead of using a bank account (however, Expense Recovery can be used to recover for an old bank entry where the matter was omitted)

Just locate the error, and remove it, or do a reversing entry.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Trust Errors.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

The 7 Most Common PCLaw Errors

December 11, 2011

I provide legal bookkeeping services to clients on a monthly basis, however, the vast majority of my income comes from error correction services. I have some clients that do all of their own bookkeeping, and retain my services just to correct errors and monitor for LSUC compliance issues.

I think the best way to start this next series of postings is to list the types of errors commonly found in PCLaw. Starting in January, I will discuss each of errors in more depth.

User Errors:

  1. Simple posting error
  2. Trust errors (multiple matters/trust accounts)
  3. Accounts Receivable errors (method/multiple invoices/matters)
PCLaw Errors
  1. Posting error (PCLaw generated)
  2. Partial posting error
  3. Read/write error
  4. Hidden error
There are others, but these are the most common errors.

If you know of another type of error that you would like to see added to the discussion, please email me. Maybe others are having the same issue, so I would be happy to assist. If I recognize the problem you are having, I will reply to your email with a possible solution.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – I am off for the holidays – next posting: January 8th, 2012.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

PCLaw vs. Cloud based bookkeeping

For the last few weeks, the LinkedIn Legal IT Network has been hosting a rather a heated debate on Cloud services. Many law firms have embraced or are considering cloud technology as part of their practice management. Thus far, the LSUC and/or LawPRO have placed no restrictions on law office cloud based solutions. Instead, they have opted to place the onus on you to conduct your own due diligence. The main issues are client confidentiality, backup, and timely accessibility.

It is up to you to investigate your Cloud service provider, to ensure they have adequate security measures to protect your clients’ privacy. You also need to be aware of other less obvious issues like “The Patriot Act”, if the servers are located in the USA. One Bar association article recommend amending the provider’s standard service agreement, to specify the data you are storing and their duty to protect it.
“Before attorneys begins placing sensitive
information on the Internet, they should draft language
into the agreement that specifies the types of information that are protected under the provider’s security agreement. This may include, but not be limited to, data from a third party, data drawn from both electronic and non-electronic formats, metadata, trade secrets, personally identifiable information,
and intellectual property. Attorneys should carefully
formulate this language so it accurately covers all of the categories of information contained in their records.”
And, how will you and your client be compensated if there is a breach in security? Think it cannot happen? Breaches so far in 2011: Sony, the data-security firm RSA, Lockheed Martin, the email wholesaler Epsilon, the Fox broadcast network, NASA, PBS, the European Space Agency, the FBI, the British and French treasuries, and insurance giant Citigroup.

Many Cloud providers offer different service packages, varying the level of service provided, performance guarantees, and compensation levels. The cheapest packages usually deny any and all liability for the Cloud provider, leaving you financially liable to your client with no third-party indemnity.

Does the Cloud provider have sufficient backup procedures to safeguard your data. Accessibility to your own data can be affected by power outages, system crashes, and maintenance at your Cloud provider’s location. Is their support centre well staffed and able to assist you if you have a problem? Also of concern: is the Cloud provider a viable company and what happens to your data in the event of bankruptcy?

For Cloud based bookkeeping, most of the solutions currently offered are not true accounting programs. They allow you to make bookkeeping entries, but the reconciliation and reporting functions are extremely limited. You end up having to do this things manually or in an Excel spreadsheet, so any perceived convenience or savings are lost due to time wasted.

The main issue here is accessibility. The LSUC requires you to be able to produce your accounting records on demand. If the Cloud server is down, for whatever reason, you have a big problem. And If the Cloud server is down on the day of your LSUC spot audit, you have a crisis.

Personally, I see Cloud computing as a very useful tool for large firms. This allows all employees to work as a team, by having access to all files from any location. Another big goal of Cloud seems to be sharing with clients (dropbox, etc.).

But for a small firm or solo-practitioner, the effort seems rather pointless. You and your staff can already use remote programs like LogMeIn to gain access to your data from anywhere. And as a solo, there is not much need for such widespread sharing, as your collaborative network is small.

Are you a solo or small firm using the Cloud? I would be interested in any comments on your experience with Cloud based solutions. Any issues with the transition? How has your staff adapted? Any training issues? Are you happy and was it worth the investment?

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – PCLaw Errors. 


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Expense Recovery in PCLaw

How Expense Recovery entries are made in PCLaw is mostly a matter of style, and how you want the expenses displayed on your income statement. The more detailed approach takes more time and therefore costs more in wages. But the detailed method makes it is easier to track expenses and ensure full recovery. You need to weigh the cost versus recovery to determine which method will work best for you.

The two main methods for posting client disbursements are:
  1. Post any and all disbursements to a catch-all client disbursement expense account.
  2. Post expenses to category accounts.
The first method is straight forward – All entries for client expenses and expense recovery are posted to the Client Disbursements control accounts (1210 and 5210). 

When using the second method, you set up your expense accounts and add corresponding expense recovery account. You post (no matter number) the expenses paid by general account entries to Postage Expense, Courier Expense, Court Filings Expense, Process Serving Expense, etc.  Immediately do an Expense Recovery for the appropriate matter(s), for the same amount, and post to Postage Recovery, Courier Recovery, Court Filings Recovery, Process Serving Recovery, etc.

Using the first method makes it difficult to track the disbursements, and ensure your costs are being fully recovered. Writing a cheque to pay a vendor, without first entering a matter number, is a very common error. You promise yourself that you will return to the cheque entry, to enter the matter, by forget to do so.

Using the second method, you can compare the dedicated Expense accounts to the Recovery accounts, and it will be obvious if some items are missing.

A variation of the second method is to post both the expense and the expense recovery to the same category account.  At the end of the month/year, the account should have a zero balance, if you indeed passed on all of the disbursement costs. If not zero, you should be able to quickly identify the missing entry and bill the client.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – PCLaw versus Cloud bookkeeping.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why I prefer PCLaw

 I often get calls from lawyers opening up their own practice, asking advice on which accounting software to purchase. I have used everything from Simply Accounting and Quickbooks to PCLaw and Amicus. I prefer PCLaw.

If you have no trust account, Simply Accounting or Quickbooks will work fine for you. It will even work if you have a very limited volume of trust transactions. However, if you have an active trust account, these general accounting programs will be inefficient to use and will not produce the reports you need.

PCLaw works like any other accounting program, but has fully integrated trust transactions into daily tasks. Out of all of PCLaw's features, the one I like the most is the “Add” buttons on pop-up windows. These allow you to add what you need “on-the-fly”, rather than stopping, adding, and then restarting your entry. This is a real timesaver.

PCLaw is not without its own little quirks, and it does tend to collect some imbalance errors. But with regular maintenance, these are minor issues when compared to PCLaw’s ability to handle a law firm’s bookkeeping with relative ease.

What is your opinion on PCLaw? Do you use something else?

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Expense Recovery in PCLaw.


How to post a car purchase in PCLaw

I received the following enquiry from John:
“I purchased an automobile. I have not purchased a car since I installed  PCLaw, and I want to make sure that the assets and liabilities are posted correctly. I cannot simply use  the GL adjustment feature since the amount to be posted for the loan will be more than the amount posted for the purchase of the asset. It is financed for 100% of the purchase price, less the automobile taken in trade, through the dealer’s bank.  The conditional sales contract includes the cost of financing (total interest payable over the term of the loan).”
“Can you advise either as to how to most appropriately post my purchase and loan so as to reflect my intentions, or advise as to a more appropriate manner in which to post them?”
My reply was:
“The simplest way is to create asset and loan accounts that balance. You will have to adjust your capital for the trade-in, if not already listed as an asset.”
“Pay down the loan account throughout the year. The loan balance will decrease faster than it should, because you are including the interest in the payment.”
“At year-end, debit the interest account and increase the loan (returning the excess taken out) by crediting the loan account.”
This simple method has the advantage of allowing you to use the Recurring Entry feature in PCLaw. There are many alternatives, including setting up the loan as an accounts payable, accounting for interest and principle on each payment, or posting interest and depreciation as a capital investment at year-end, to name but a few.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Why I prefer PCLaw.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to Reconcile your PCLaw Accounts Receivable with your client’s Accounts Payable

If you have clients that pay by invoice number, they may also occasionally pay their invoices out of chronological order. You may both have the same total balance owing, but show different amounts on different invoices. This is because, by default, PCLaw applies payments received using the Matter or Client boxes to the oldest invoices first.
To reconcile with your client, first obtain a printout of their Accounts Payable ledger.

Compare your Accounts Receivable ledger with their A/P ledger, and determine which invoices you show as having been paid, but your client still shows outstanding.

Use the Register to locate these payments, and Void them as of today’s date.

Then do Receive Payment (see 1 below) to pay the invoices your client shows as paid.

The voided receipts and the new payments received will cancel each other for the bank reconciliation. Your A/R report should now match your client’s A/P report.

To avoid this happening in the future:
  1. On the Receive Payment entry, fill in the invoice box number, rather than the matter or the client box; OR
  2. Turn off “Auto Allocate Payments to Invoices” in System Settings – Data Entry – Payment Rules.
As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – How to post a car purchase in PCLaw .


Thursday, November 10, 2011

PCLaw Bookkeeping

I thought it might be nice to start a group where PCLaw users could talk to 
each other, ask questions, share tips and tricks, etc. 

Feel free to invite your co-workers, friends, or anyone you feel would be 

This will be a moderated group, to avoid members being spammed. 

Here is the group's description:

Of interest to lawyers and their bookkeepers. Users of PCLaw - discuss, advise, tips and tricks, etc. Lawyers can post seeking bookkeepers. Bookkeepers can introduce their services (once - no spamming).


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Part 2 of Adding a New Bank in PCLaw – Steps to follow while moving your bank accounts

Last week we added new banks in PCLaw, but now you need to smoothly transfer your banking from one institution to another.
  • The first thing to do is examine your last bank reconciliation, to determine which cheques are still outstanding, plus any cheques you have written since. Add to this figure, any Pre-Authorized Payments (PAPs) you have set up and your estimated bank fees. You can then transfer any funds surplus to this amount to the new account.  
  • With money now transferred, you can change your PAPs to the new account.
  • Continue monitoring your PAPs. If funds are withdrawn from the old accounts, replace them to avoid any NSF charges, in the unlikely event two payments are processed before the change occurs.
  • After you have confirmed that all of your PAPs are appearing in your new accounts, and the outstanding cheques have also cleared, you can close your old accounts. If you have only one or two cheques left outstanding, you may wish to issue a stop-payment and send a replacement cheque.
Now that you are using your new accounts, you will want to make them your default banks in PCLaw. Options – System Settings – Banking tab – change the bank number(s) – OK.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – How to reconcile your PCLaw Accounts Receivable with your client’s Accounts Payable.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Adding a New Bank in PCLaw

There are many reasons you may need to add a new bank account. Maybe you have moved, and want to bank closer to your new location. Maybe you want to add an account to track your credit card purchases. Maybe you want to separate investment trust funds (GICs, etc.) from your everyday mixed trust account.

Old established law firms can remain in the same location and bank at the same institution for decades. The need to add a new bank account into PCLaw never arises, so the knowledge of how to do this is lost. I once took over from a bookkeeper that left all the entries in the original PCLaw bank accounts, leaving me to sort out which entries were from the old account and which were from the new.

“What I do NOT understand is how to open a new general account … Further, how do I open a new trust account in PCLaw and transfer my data to where it belongs?” 

I replied as follows:
“I am assuming the entire bank balance went from general A to general B.  Data Entry - General bank – Date - Bank to Bank transfer - 1st box, transfer from acct #1 (assuming 1) - next box, transfer to - click on right side of box to open pop-up window listing general banks - click Add - name the new bank TD, RBC etc. - OK - OK - Enter $$ - OK.”

“Trust account - first get a trust listing of the old account - Reports - Client - Trust listing. Then same as above - Data Entry - Trust bank - Bank to bank transfer - add the new account - transfer amount - only this time use the trust listing to enter the matter numbers and amounts in the lower portion - OK.”

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Steps to follow while moving your bank accounts.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Adding a Different Address for a Satellite Office in PCLaw

I am a member of the PCLaw group at LinkedIn. Cindy asked:

“Is there a way to get invoices to print with a satellite office address at the top, instead of the firm's main address?”

My answer was:

Use the Template Editor in Tools to select the bill you are using now. You can confirm the current billing template in Systems Settings - Billing - there are 3 - Bill, Quickbill, and Prebill.

After you open the bill in the Template Editor, immediately "save as" a new name. Then click on the Element containing the firm's address at the top and delete. Then, Edit -Insert - Text element. In the text element type the name, address, phone, etc. of the satellite office. Re-save this template.

You cannot change the default bill template in Systems Settings, as it will change for the whole firm. Instead, use the Billing tab in Matter Manager to set the billing template for clients of the satellite office only.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Adding a New Bank in PCLaw.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

HST On Long-term Billing

Note: (This posting was scheduled for September 25th, but for some unknown reason it did not publish to the blog as scheduled.) 

I received a question from Mandy:

“I'm getting accounts to put through that have a HST amount and a GST amount. For example I recently received an account to put through for a criminal matter that was started a year before the HST.

As the work on the matter was pretty much 50/50 before & after HST . . .  the assistant is calculating the disbursements & time spent on the matter based on when the work was done or the disbursement was incurred (before or after HST).  I'm having difficulty with some of these files that do not meet the 90% rule.”

The solution:

Two invoices – one ending June 30, 2010 and one starting July 1st, 2010 to today.


For one invoice - Run your client’s ledger to June 30, 2010.  Then run the client’s ledger from July 1, 2010 to today.  Compare totals on both ledgers to determine whether the 90% rule applies. If the 90% rule does not apply, calculate 5% GST on 1st ledger total, and 13% HST on second.  Add together the GST and HST, for the total tax on the invoice, and then use this amount to adjust the tax on the billing window.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Billing for a Satellite Office.


PCLaw Error Evaluation - Confidentiality

I am updating the posting of September 18th in response to several inquiries. Just to be perfectly clear, I do provide confidentiality agreements.

I will not disclose, discuss, or reveal any of my findings to anyone but you.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bank Reconciliations

One of the worst habits to get into when doing your bank reconciliations, is failing to carefully examine each entry to ensure the PCLaw entry exactly matches the bank statement.

If you are a small practice, you can sometimes get away with looking for a $500.01 entry and checking off $500.10. If you have a hundred or more entries each month, this short-cut method creates much more work than the time it saves. There is nothing more frustrating than checking off all your entries and finding the balance is out by $0.09. You now have to go back and start over, re-examining each entry to find the error.

Instead, take the few seconds needed to check that the numbers the teller entered are exactly the same as the entry in PCLaw. Correct any errors as you find them. You will quickly find that by using this system, your last checkmark consistently result in a balanced account.

Tricks to aid you in the bank reconciliation process:
  1. Deal with bank errors immediately – inform the bank or correct in PCLaw as needed.
  2. Use the sort function – by clicking on the headings at the top of the columns. If you are having trouble finding an entry, sort by amount. To find a cheque, sort by cheque number. You can also sort by checked/unchecked entries.
  3. Use multiple sorting. First sort by date, then by unchecked/checked.  The unchecked items will be grouped together, and sorted by date. Sort by amount then by unchecked/checked. The unchecked items will be grouped together, and sorted by the amount.
As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – No cost error evaluation.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Transfers Between Matters

It often occurs that clients with multiple matters either request that you transfer entries or you ask the client for permission to transfer entries between matters. There are many reasons for this, but could include:
  • your wanting to merge two matters after obtaining a court order to have them tried together.
  • funds from a real estate sale matter transferred to a purchase matter.
  • one matter may have been resolved, and you wish to transfer a few small expenses rather than issuing two separate invoices.
  • there could be settlement funds or an unused retainer balance in one matter, that could be applied to accounts receivable in another matter.
To transfer expenses from one matter to another – Data Entry – Transfer Expenses – enter matter that has the expenses and then the matter you wish to transfer them to. By default, all expenses will be listed - to shorten the list, choose a start date – then click the Select button. All expenses within the date range will appear and be selected for transfer. To stop one or two expenses from being transferred, click to remove the “X” – then click “Transfer”.

To transfer trust funds, Data Entry – Trust Bank – Matter to Matter Transfer or Quick Step Trust Tab – Matter to Matter Transfer - enter the matter that has the funds and then the matter you wish to transfer the funds to – the date – the amount – an explanation – OK.

To split trust funds when entering a receipt, just enter the two matters and their respective amounts on the trust receipt.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – HST on long-term billing.

PCLaw Error Evaluation

My PCLaw bookkeeping practice is actually comprised of two separate but related components. One portion is the legal bookkeeping services I provide to regular monthly clients, including bank reconciliations, HST & payroll remittances, and general bookkeeping entries. I also provide a PCLaw Error Detection and Correction consulting service. I offer this service to anyone who needs help, whether they be regular clients or one-off customers.
What does error detection and correction entail?

PCLaw is a terrific program for legal bookkeeping, as it nicely ties together in one package all aspects of clients, matters, trust and general banking entries, disbursements recovery, receivables, and payables. However, all these sub-ledgers interacting with each other can make for a complex web of entries. It is this complexity that can cause minor errors to accumulate over time.

Some errors are as simple as using the wrong method to post an entry. The entry may be correct strictly from the point of view bookkeeping, but PCLaw “reads” it as an error. These types of errors are what cause your bank ledger balance to differ from the amount shown on your balance sheet. These errors can be present even though your bank account has been reconciled.

Some of the more difficult errors to find and remove are partial or hidden errors. A partial error is something only half posted. For example, a receive payment is entered in the general bank, but an accounts receivable balance is still showing on the A/R report. A hidden error is usually an entry that has been deleted, but is still having an effect on report balances.

I am pleased to offer this PCLaw Cost Error Evaluation to anyone subscribing to this blog. The evaluation is is only $25.00 including HST, and I will provide you with a report outlining any issues that need to be addressed. Likewise, this service can offer you great peace of mind if no issues are found. The evaluation takes approximately 30 minutes.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Billing for a Satellite Office.


Sunday, September 11, 2011


Archiving matters is a must if you want to reduce the time it takes to generate and print reports. Contrary to popular belief, this does nothing to change the matter’s information. When you archive matters, you also set its destroy date, which is the date you will shred the client’s file. But the archived matter is available and can be reopened if needed (please note that there have been some issues with reopening matters archived in older versions of PCLaw – always print/save copies of the client ledger).

The archiving tool can also be used to destroy the matter information, which will completely remove it from PCLaw.

Pre-conditions – A matter you want to archive:
• cannot have unbilled disbursements
• cannot have remaining trust funds
• cannot have a general retainer balance
• cannot have an outstanding A/R balance
• cannot have activity in an open month.

You should also set a default destroy date – System Settings – Matter – “Files Can Be Destroyed After __ Years”. LawPRO Magazine had an article on file retention in their December 2010 issue. Here is a link to the article:
To archive – File – Matter – Close Matter – enter matter number – make sure “Archive Name/Address and Accounting Information” is selected - OK.:

Bulk Archiving - Do not enter a matter number, Achive all matters before - you choose at date - OK. PCLaw will archive all matters that meet the conditions set out above.

To reopen a matter – File – Matter – Closed Matter Register – select the matter – OK.
As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Transfers Between Matters.

Monday, September 5, 2011

How does virtual legal bookkeeping work?

My July 3rd posting was on why I provide my bookkeeping services virtually. Richard from Michigan suggested that I could further explain what I do and how the whole virtual legal bookkeeping process works.

Each month, I generally do the bank reconciliations (statements emailed or faxed to me), plus the remittances to the government for payroll taxes and HST (consumption tax). If something on the bank statement does not appear correct, I simply email to ask for clarification / explanation; just as I would have to ask for an explanation if I was on-site.

I also assist with law practice compliance issues. The law society in Ontario requires specific bookkeeping procedures, records, forms, etc.  I review practice / office procedures, help fill out forms, look for any bookkeeping errors made by staff, and advise and correct as needed.

I maintain the General Ledger in PCLaw, which has a tendency to gather posting errors that cause sub-ledger imbalances (i.e. bank ledger balance is different from the amount shown on the balance sheet). With the exception of partial postings which require the involvement of a PCLaw engineer, I can correct most of the other errors.

I can print or save any reports as are needed or requested. I can assist with billing disputes and other accounts receivable issues. And, I can also assist with overall small business advise in respect to running a law practice.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Archiving.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Explanation Codes

Explanation codes are an invaluable tool for speeding up any type data entry, and they can also be used when doing Quick Bills. The point is to reduce the number of mouse clicks and typing. Instead, let PCLaw do most of the work for you, simply by typing a short code in the explanation code box.

For payables, using a code like “cre” can fill in the explanation with Courier Expense, automatically determine that HST applies, and post it to Delivery Expense. Assign a companion code “cr” for use in Expense Recovery, that can be set as taxable and post to Delivery Recovery.

The key to being efficient when setting up codes, is to assign a good, full explanation. However, the explanations should not be too specific, but rather a generic description of one task that can be used in various circumstances. You can always edit the text to add specifics if you really want to. And, be sure to assign all your the expense and recovery codes to G/L accounts, and set their respective default tax categories.

Setting up explanation codes with the G/L accounts assigned creates a more uniformed system for entries. An explanation code that is not assigned a G/L account, leaves the individual making the entry guessing where to posted the expense, creating random entries dependant on who is doing the work.

For fee entries, the sky is the limit as to how you design your explanation codes. How about “rep” for a real estate purchase, which inserts the following:

TO acting for you as well as the lender with respect to placing a new first mortgage; 
TO performing a sub-search of title and to making such other investigations and inquiries as were required by the company providing title insurance to the lender;  
TO all correspondence with the title insurance company, and to completing its required forms and documentation, and to reporting to the title insurer after closing; 
TO searching for executions; 
TO verifying adequate fire insurance coverage;  
TO preparation of required documentation;  
TO all correspondence with the mortgagee and to providing any required draft documents prior to closing;  
TO meeting with you to sign all necessary documents; 
TO registering the deed and mortgage; 
TO receiving funds from the mortgage advance into our trust account; 
TO reporting to you following closing;  
TO submitting a final report to the mortgagee;”

Now, is not “rep” a lot faster than doing all that typing?

The sample books in PCLaw have quite an extensive list of explanation codes and task codes, which you may wish to print off and review for ideas. To print a list of codes: Options – Lists – Explanation Codes or Task Codes – Print. Be creative. Try to add as many of your repetitive tasks as possible. When you are done, print off your own list for easy reference.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – How does virtual legal bookkeeping work?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Keyboard Shortcuts

It is sometimes easier and faster to use keyboard shortcuts than it is to use your mouse, especially if the function you want is not on the Quick Step menu. PCLaw has pre-assigned keyboard shortcuts for the most common functions as listed below:

CTRL + A General Retainer CTRL + N New Matter
CTRL + B Bill CTRL + O Open Matter
CTRL + C Copy selected text to clipboard CTRL + P Pre-Bill
CTRL + D Deposit Slip CTRL + Q Quick Timer
CTRL + E Expense Recovery CTRL + R Receive Payment
CTRL + F Find Window CTRL + S Time Sheet
CTRL + G General-to-General Transfer CTRL + T Trust Receipt
CTRL + H General Cheque CTRL + U New Payable
CTRL + I Firm Receipt CTRL + V Insert text from clipboard
CTRL + J G/L Adjustment CTRL + W Change/Write Off Bill
CTRL + K Trust Cheque CTRL + X (no function)
CTRL + L Client Ledger CTRL + Y Matter Manager
CTRL + M Mortgage Amortization CTRL + Z Trust-to-General Transfer

F1 Help

CTRL + F1 Box Pop Up Help

SHIFT+ F1 Field (Box) Help

If a function that you use often is not on this list, you can add your own user defined shortcuts. Options – Customize – Keyboard – select category i.e. file, reports, data entry, etc. - scroll until you find the function. Once you have found and clicked on the function you want, type the shortcut in the “Press New Shortcut Key”. The program will confirm whether your shortcut is unassigned – if unassigned, click “Assign”. Continue adding shortcuts or “Close”.

Note that on the above list, the default shortcuts are all Ctrl + letter.  You could assign your user defined shortcuts to ALT + letter. I suggest not using Shift + letter, as this can create problems when you just want to capitalize while typing.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Explanation Codes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Favourites Tab

The Quick Step menu in PCLaw has separate tabs grouping the buttons for everyday tasks into 6 major categories: Time/Fees, Client Costs, Trust, Billing, Client Receipts, and Accounts Payable (may differ on older versions). Many of these tabs have only two or three buttons, and you must flip between the tabs throughout the day.

The Favourites tab allows you to place all the buttons you use every day on one tab. Just right click anywhere on the Favourites page, “Add Button”, and scroll through the lists to find the one you want. The New QuickStep allows for up to 15 buttons. For everyday use, you might want:

1. General Cheque
2. Receive Payment
3. Trust Cheque
4. Trust Receipt
5. Fee Sheet
6. Create Pre-Bill
7. Create Bill
8. Quick Bill
9. Expense Recovery.

You might want to add:
1. Quick Timer
2. Undo Bill
3. Past Due Notice

These are suggestions only – every firm is different. If you never use Quick Bills, there is no point in adding it to your Favourites. Likewise, if you only rarely undo bills, do not place the button on your Favourites page. Of course, all of these buttons still appear on the other tabs or the pull down menu, if you need them. The idea is to have only the buttons you use frequently, and not to allow for every possibility.

You can also add reports too, like General Bank Journal, Trust Bank Journal, and Accounts Receivable Reports. Basically, add anything you use on a regular basis.

My suggested list above has 12 buttons. Did you know that you can also add other applications like Word, WordPerfect, etc. to your PCLaw tabs? Right click on the page, “Add Button”, and scroll down to “Application Launcher”, then browse to the program file you need. Everything you use on a daily basis can be placed in this one convenient location.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Keyboard Shortcuts.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Workstation Settings

These settings below are suggested from the point of view of day to day usage, and some settings you may want to turn on for a limited time, and then turn off.

Carry forward

Selecting “Carry Matter Nickname Forward on Time Sheet” uses the same matter nickname in the Time Sheet feature as was used on a previous entry. Handy if you are doing multiple entries on the same file.

To use the same matter nickname in the trust cheque and receipt features as is found on the previous entry, select “Remember Last Matter When Creating New Trust Cheque and Receipt”.

If you are doing multiple entries on the same file, both of the above settings can save re-entering the matter number over and over again.

Repetitive Tasks

Alternatively, if you are doing a series of one type of entry – i.e. entering a bunch of A/R cheques for deposit, doing 10 bills in a row, etc., removing the checkmark from “Close data entry windows on OK” is a handy feature.

This setting can be left on if you are comfortable with switching windows. Open your first task. Then - Data Entry, or Window (Alt + W) – Quick Step – to open another task. To switch windows Alt + W, then enter the number shown for the window you want. You can easily move from bill to cheque, then cheque to receipt, etc.

Only one issue of concern – you cannot do two similar functions. For example, you cannot have “Trust Cheque” and “Trust to General Transfer” open at the same time, as the program cannot obtain two cheque numbers at the same time. When you get an error message, just close the window you do not need and re-open the one you want.

Spell Checking

Checkmark “Use Spell Checking”. To have PCLaw automatically spell check entries when you click OK, select “Automatic on OK”. I usually uncheck the “Use Spell Check Complete Message”, as it saves the step of dismissing this message on every entry.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Favourites Tab.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Recurring Entries

Setting up recurring entries can save you both bookkeeping time and act as a reminder system. Recurring entries can be set up for cheques (payables) and receipts, and for both trust and general bank accounts.

A few examples of how recurring entries can be used:

For the general bank cheques – Pre-authorized monthly payments for car, insurance, leased equipment, rent, etc. Salaried employees that receive the same pay and have the same deductions every week, can also be set up as recurring. If money is tight, setting the reminder for a day or two before the due date gives you time to make sure the funds are on deposit.

General bank receipts – You may have a client paying off their accounts receivable balance by instalments. Setting this up as a recurring entry will remind you if the cheque did not arrive.

Trust bank cheques – Suppose you are acting for an estate or acting under a Power of Attorney. You may need to make monthly payments to a retirement or nursing home. For an estate, you may be selling the home, but, in the meantime, you still need to make the equal billing payments for heat, hydro, etc.

Trust receipts – Most often used for estates / Powers of Attorney, for investments like dividend payments or annuity payments, etc. Litigation files might involve settlement funds paid by instalments. Again, recurring entries can act as a tickler system to remind you that the payment has not arrived.

The Recurring Entries buttons are located just to the left of the OK button on cheques and receipts. To set up a recurring entry, do your receipt or cheque entry as normal, but do not click OK. Instead, click Create – then name your entry i.e. car payment, set the frequency, and who to remind – OK to save the recurring entry – then OK to post the original entry. 

The next month, you will receive a reminder when you sign-in on the due date. You can process the entry from the reminder window – just be sure you place a checkmark in “Prompt for Che/Rcpt #”. Click on the entry (entries), then click Process. If the bank transaction occurred on a weekend, be sure to change the “Process Date”.

Recurring entries can also set up for random use too. For example, if you do litigation, you could set up a cheque for a Statement of Claim, payable to Minister of Finance, with the amount, explanation code, and G/L account all filled in. Open a cheque window as normal, click "Use" Recurring Entries, select the entry, enter the matter number, Print.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Workstation Settings.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Memorized Transactions

This feature is turned on in System Settings - Memorized Transactions tab.  You can choose where you would like this feature to be applied: general bank, trust bank, or accounts payable.

By typing in at least the first three letters of the payee or payor, the program will fill out the rest of the name for you. The setting allows you to pick and choose what other things you would like the program to remember for you. Things like: the bank account, the amount, the explanation, the matter, the address, and the G/L account.

Sometimes when entering a cheque or receipt, you make a typo on the payee/payor name. If the typo is higher in the alphabet than your original payee/payor, PCLaw will insert this one instead of the one you want.  To correct the error – System Settings – Memorized Transactions – Edit Payee – find the error payee and Remove.

A final tip:

When entering a receipt on a matter – trust, general, A/R payment - always enter the matter number first, to have the received “From” automatically filled in for you.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Recurring Entries.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Numbering Variations

When you are searching for anything in the Register or pop-up menus, you can click on the headings to sort the list, and thereby reduce your search time. You can reduce your search time even further, by altering the numbering format for your matters and invoices. These examples are only suggestions – you can design whatever system you are comfortable with.

For example:

Some matters inherently short in duration, like real estate closings, which are typically about 60 days. These matters could by numbered by year:
11-0001, 11-0002, etc.

Other matters like estates or litigation are long-term, and can go on for several years. If you are maintaining corporate records with annual filings, etc., these too would be long-term matters. For these matters you might consider grouping them by type of law:
estates: 900001, litigation: 800001, corporate: 700001, etc.

You can also use alphanumeric numbering for matters – CORP0001, EST0001, etc. It is possible to use a matter numbering system to give you information on the file at a glance: C08-0001 for a corporate client new to you in 2008.

You can gradually move to a new numbering system as old matters are closed and new matters are opened.

If you want to change your old matters to conform to a new numbering system:

1) Print a list of your matters – Reports – Client – List of Clients – on the Matter tab – checkmark “Sort by - Type of Law”.

2) File – matter – renumber matter/client.

Your invoices can also be issued by year. When doing your first invoice of the year change to 110001, next year 120001, etc. On OK, you will get a message asking – “Would you like to set next invoice based on this one? – YES.

Invoice numbers are limited to six digits (that you can manually change), so you are limited to 9,999 invoices in one year. This blog is written for solos and small firms, so this should not be a problem for you.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Memorized Transactions.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Updating Lawyer Rates

When you opened the PCLaw program the very first time, you set up yourself as a timekeeper and entered your hourly rates. As self-employed individuals, your income tax returns were due in June, so now is a good time to review of your net earnings from the previous year.

Are you comfortable with your net income? Are there ways you can reduce costs? Are your recovery procedures capturing all client expenses? And finally, do you need to increase your hourly rate to become more profitable?

If you do determine an increase is needed, you would normally send out a notice letter to all of your clients, informing them that the increase will take affect on a forthcoming date.

How do you make the change in PCLaw?

Options – Lists – Lawyers and Rates. Select the lawyer – Change – edit the rates as you like – set the effective date, being the date in your notice to clients – OK - OK.

Entries made before the effective date will bill out at the old rate; entries made on or after the effective date will be billed at the new rate.

You may have one or two clients that comprise the majority of your billings, and they may not be open to a rate increase, and doing so could result in a loss of business. Or, you may be contractually obligated to maintain a certain rate for the length of a contract. Use Matter Manager to adjust the rates for these matters individually, adding a new rate for the effective date, if you changed/eliminated the old one.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Numbering Variations.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Virtual Legal Bookkeeping

A question I am often asked is “Why do you provide your services virtually, as opposed to on site?
There are actually many reasons, but here are a few of them:
  1. I can help more of you. Operating virtually enables me to distribute my experience and expertise throughout Ontario.
  2. I have more time to help you. Eliminating travel time frees up a lot of time over a month to help clients. I am, of course, always willing to travel to see a new client, as people often want to initially meet their bookkeeper face-to-face.
  3. By hiring a virtual bookkeeper, you are doing a good thing for the environment, as virtual bookkeeping has an extremely small carbon footprint.
  4. You save money. I offer a higher level of service, including seeking out and correcting ledger imbalances, however, my rates are competitive with other bookkeepers. I pass my overhead savings on to you.
  5. You do not need to provide me with extra office space, a desk, or a computer. I can access PCLaw afterhours / on weekends.
  6. You can receive real-time answers to any question you might have, or I can help you with any bookkeeping problem you are experiencing. I can sign-in and get the report or answer you need – immediately. A full-time bookkeeper can do this for you too. But, a once-a-week/month bookkeeper does not operate this way, and would breach confidentiality if they accessed your computer while working at another firm.
  7. Your financial wellbeing is protected. With few exceptions, I can help you do almost anything that an onsite bookkeeper can do, but I cannot write/print or sign cheques.
  8. And lastly, everyday I get to enjoy the beautiful Muskoka scenery outside my window.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Updating Lawyer Rates.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to pay A/R with a general retainer

No matter how careful people are doing their entries in PCLaw, we are all still human, and mistakes do happen.

I have stressed in the past, that general retainers should be transferred to trust, as is required by the LSUC. But what about the situation where you discover a general retainer amount but the same amount or more is owing to you in Accounts Receivable? There is nothing technically wrong as far as the LSUC is concerned, as your billing invoices total matches or exceeds your receipts total from this same client. The receipts, for whatever reason, have just not been correctly entered as against your receivables.

To correct this situation:

1. Enter a General Retainer receipt using today’s date, but for a negative amount equal to the general retainer held by this client. This will remove the general retainer balance.

2. Enter a Receive Payment, using the same date and the same amount, only this time with a positive value. This will apply the amount against the receivable balance owing.

When doing your bank reconciliation, the positive and negative receipts will cancel each other out, and the bank will balance.

You may also find two A/R invoices offsetting each other (+$500 fees, -$500 discount). Even though the net owing is zero, the program reads these invoices as outstanding, and you cannot archive this matter. Tools – Mark Offsetting A/R as Paid – enter matter number - OK.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Numbering Variations.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Past Due Notices

By default, Past Due Notices show the billing date, matter number, invoice number, the amount of the invoice, any interest you have charged, any amount paid, the balance now due, the interest rate, and the aging of the invoice. You can change these settings – System Settings – Past Due. By default, a 30 day grace period is set before interest is calculated, in compliance with the Solicitors Act.

You can add custom phrases too, however they will not appear until you add the “phrase” token using the template editor. Alternatively, you could save custom templates, with your phrasing, plus any other changes you would like to make. You can assign a default template for most of your clients, and use the Billing tab in Matter Manager to set special templates for certain individual clients.

For example, you may have a large corporate client that pays on 60 days. There is no need 30 days to appear on your template. Make a custom template for this client with 60, 90 and 120 days.

At the end of the month, you can run Past Due Notices for all clients with A/R balances; just leave the matter box empty. On the Options tab, you can set the program to ignore A/R balances below a certain amount.

To reduce client inquiries, try to put as much information on the Notice as possible. A checkmark placed in “All Matters for Client on One Notice”, will avoid clients asking where their payment went, if you can show that it was applied to an invoice outstanding on another matter.

Checkmarks placed in the activity section will show the history of billings and most importantly, their payments, and this will likewise reduce inquiries to your office. If your matters have lengthy histories, you can set a Starting cut-off date. On the options tab, you can also choose to group the activity by date or by matter.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – How to pay Accounts Receivable with a general retainer.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Deposit Slips

Deposit slips are a useful feature for reducing addition errors when adding up the list of cheques in the bank deposit book. First consult with your bank to gain approval of the form. Some banks want two copies of the deposit slip, as one goes with the cheques to the clearing house and one stays with the branch/teller. And, of course, you will want a copy for yourself.

Deposit slips are turned on in System Settings – Banking – checkmark in “Use Deposit Slips”. Turning on this feature also activates the pull down list for method of payment on receipts. You will now be able to select cash, cheque, money order, credit card, etc.

To use deposit slips for the first time, you may need to remove some old receipts.

To start, Tools – Deposit Slips or Ctrl + D, select the bank - OK. On the next window choose Select All. Clicking on the date twice will bring the newest entries to the top of the list. Carefully review the items and deselect the cheques you want to appear on your final deposit slip – then OK. This will clear the old entries.

Then repeat these steps - select bank - select all - select "Printer" output to print your deposit slip.

The totals on the deposit slips will always be equal to the receipts entered in PCLaw. Unless you misread the cheque when keying in the entry, the chance of bank errors will be greatly reduced. You can “Use Deposit Slips” when doing your bank reconciliations too, by placing a checkmark on the “Select Account” window.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Past Due Notices.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Accounts Receivable

We have covered pre-bills and bills, now we want to get paid. There are many ways clients choose to pay their invoices, each requiring a different method of posting the receipt.

For a payment in the exact same amount of the invoice(s) owing, or less – use Receive Payment, enter matter number and enter the payment amount.

By default, PCLaw wants to apply the payment to the older invoices first. Your client may wish you to allocate their payment to a specific invoice, which is not necessarily the oldest. To avoid any issues that occur due to the default settings, do not enter the matter number. Instead, enter the invoice number, which will still populate the other boxes, but will also ensure only this invoice is paid.

For payments that are for more than amount owing – this cheque, even if just one cent more, must be deposited into trust - and then immediately use Trust to General Transfer to pay the amount owing.

For a client paying the exact amount or less of multiple invoices on multiple matters – use Receive Payment, only instead of entering a matter number, enter the "Client" name/number, and then select the invoices.

Enter the cheque number, credit card transaction number, wire/bank transfer number, etc. Be sure to also record the method of payment, cheque, certified cheque, bank cheque (draft), cash, credit card, direct deposit, money order, wire or other. It is especially important to note the method of payment on trust receipts, as the LSUC requires you to return the trust funds by the same method as they were received.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Deposit Slips.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

6th Annual Solo and Small Firm Conference & Expo

It is my sincere hope that you are enjoying this blog as much as I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts with you.

I will be exhibiting at the LSUC and OBA’s 6th Annual Solo and Small Firm Conference & Expo, this coming Friday, June 3rd, 2011 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building.

I hope that you will all stop by my booth to say hello.

You can enter a draw to win 1 of 5 tee shirts I will be giving away.

If you know of anyone who needs help with their bookkeeping, I hope you will pass my name along. Please also mention to them that I will be at the Expo, so they too can meet me.
My wife, Marion McDonald, The Satellite Secretary, will also be attending. She offers her clients “as needed” transcription services, with no monthly minimums. She has a vast and wide ranging experience working in many fields of law. More information on her services can be found at:

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posting topics. Next week – Accounts Receivable.