Sunday, February 27, 2011

Client Summary Reports

Continuing with the various reports available in PCLaw, we will now consider Client Summary Reports.

But default, these reports condense a lot of information in one spot. The client, each matter, the responsible lawyer, when the matter was opened, the last entry date, unbilled and billed hours, fees and disbursements, general retainers, taxes, last date billed, any accounts receivable owing, and trust activity. The report does not provide details – you will have to review the client ledger for this – but it does provide an excellent overview of all of the client matters.

I find this report particularly useful for the features found on the “Other” tab.
Selecting “Include only Matters with” - “Retainer Balances” quickly lists any matters with general retainers. Transfer these amounts to Trust – both in PCLaw and your bank accounts. 

Selecting “Include Matters with” - “Zero Balances”, quickly provides you with a list of matters that could be archived.  Review the list carefully, as some matters may only be awaiting client instructions. But archiving the rest of these matters will reduce the time needed to generate and print your other reports.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Goods and Services Tax (HST) Report.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Accounts Receivable Reports

Accounts Receivable (A/R) reports are usually monitored for cash-flow purposes.
You can find out the amount of your client’s original invoice, how much the client still owes, and when the last payment was made. If needed, you can send clients reminders – Billing – Past Due Notices.

The A/R reports should also be checked as part of your year-end, to determine whether any amounts outstanding should be declared as bad debts. Keep in mind that changes to the Limitations Act have significantly shortened the timeframe for collecting your receivables.
In my bookkeeping practice, I have found in A/R reports quite a few instances of negative A/R balances. Most often these are the result of posting errors for payments or billing write-down errors. These errors are easy to correct when current, which is why the reports should be checked often. It is far more difficult to correct older negative balances from closed months/years, as you can no longer easily adjust the original entries.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Work-in-progress reports.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Verifying Client’s Identity in PCLaw

This weeks topic originated from a suggestion submitted by Chris. He wrote:
“How do we use PCLaw to indicate that we have verified a client's identity (per our Law Society requirements) and store the copied ID on file?”
As of December 31, 2008, subsection 22(1) of By-Law 7.1 requires that you obtain specific details identifying your clients for all new matters, “regardless of whether the client is a new or existing client”. For individuals you need to obtain a copy of a government issued document, like a birth certificate, driver’s licence, health card, etc. For corporations you need to obtain a written confirmation from a government registry as to the existence, name and address of the organization, which includes the names of the organization’s directors and status. Examples include a Certificate of Status or a copy of an Annual filing.

To make note of this information in PCLaw, you must first place a checkmark in System Settings – Matter – Know Your Client.  

You can then use New Matter to open a new file and save/close the entry. Reopen this same new matter in Matter Manager, and select the IndIDVfy tab. You can enter that you have confirmed the identity each party you are acting for, the type of ID, and where a copy is stored (paper file, scanned .pdf, etc).  You can use Document Manager to link the contact in PCLaw to a document saved on your computer.

For corporate clients, when you reopen the newly created file in Matter Manager, you click-on Add Tabs and select CorpIDVfy.  This tab provides spaces for the LSUC required Directors and persons owning 25% or more.

If you have a small roster of current clients, and you want all of your past verifications recorded into PCLaw, simply open the file in Matter Manager – Add Tabs – and select IndIDVfy or CorpIDVfy as needed. 

Once completed, when you display or print a list of clients, the column near the centre of the list will indicate Yes or No as to whether or not a client’s ID has been verified.  You are required to verify the identity of an old client if they open a new matter, so eventually, your list should only be displaying “Yes”.

Thank you Chris for the topic suggestion. As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future posts.  Next week – Accounts Receivable reports.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Transfers from trust to general

By-law 9, s.10. states
A licensee shall withdraw money from a trust account under paragraph 2 or 3 of subsection 9 (1) only,
(a) by a cheque drawn in favour of the licensee;
(b) by a transfer to a bank account that is kept in the name of the licensee and is not a trust account; or
(c) by electronic transfer.
The above list seems fairly straightforward. A trust cheque has the payee filled in and is signed by you or a person you authorize. Likewise, for a transfer to be completed in person at the bank, the teller will require a signature authorizing the transaction.
But, what about the electronic transfers? This transfer occurs online, and while it does require a password, there is no physical proof the the transaction was authorized by the licensee.

It is this step, the proof of authorization, that is often missed by law firms. To overcome this proof issue, By-law 9, s. 12 mandates that documentation be completed and signed by the licensee or an authorized person. This documentation is otherwise known as Form 9A, and it must be completed and signed before you do an electronic transfer. You must then compare the bank confirmation printout to the Form 9A, ensure the information matches, and then on the bank printout write the client name, matter number, then date and sign it.
For those of you doing electronic transfers for real estate transactions, you should already be completing Form 9Bs and Form 9Cs as part of your practice, as well as signing the bank confirmation printouts.

The Financial Reporting section of the Lawyer Annual Report has a specific question dealing with this issue – question 4. For further explanation, please see “Questions about this section” contained within the Annual Report. If you are doing online trust transfers, but not completing and signing the various Form 9’s and bank printouts, you should be answering “No” to question 4. You can use the text box at the end of the section to explain that you were unaware of the forms, but that you will take corrective action for 2011.

As always, I invite your comments and suggestions for future post topics. Next week – Verifying client’s identity.