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.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Conveyancer and PCLaw

It is obvious that the greater the number of entries you do, the greater the odds that an error will occur. It is therefore equally obvious that if you reduce the number of entries being made, you will reduce the likelihood of errors.

I have noticed a trend with most of the firms doing real estate closings, in that they use Conveyancer to do the closing and use PCLaw for their overall accounting. These firms are using Conveyancer to produce the invoice that they give to their client, and to produce the trust statement. Therefore, they have met their LSUC and common law obligations to account to the client for all trust funds received.

These firms then enter the exact same detailed information into PCLaw, which is both a waste of time and, as can be expected, this volume of entries leads to unnecessary errors.

Since you have already met your obligations to the client, the purpose of generating your PCLaw invoice is merely to allow for the accounting transfer of funds from trust to general. In addition to your invoice, you do still have to enter the other trust transactions - mortgage, realtor commission, etc.

But, as far as your fees and disbursements, use “Quick Bill” to generate your invoice, and use block amounts. Enter the Matter number, date, and your entire fee. You could add an explanation code like “ref - real estate fee” or “cinv – conveyancer invoice” with an expanded explanation like: “fees and disbursements – see Conveyancer invoice for this same date and matter”.

For disbursements, one entry HST “Y” for the total taxable disbursements; one entry HST “N” for the total non-taxable disbursements. The Quick Bill total will match your Conveyancer invoice – enter the amount to transfer in the trust box – OK.

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

Monday, May 16, 2011

Contingency Matters

Contingency fees have been formally allowed by the LSUC since Rule 2.08 was amended, which came into force on October 30, 2002, plus amendments to various acts by the Ontario Legislature.

For contingency matters you are required to have a written agreement. Among the factors to be considered are: the likelihood of success; the nature and complexity of the claim; the expense and risk of pursuing it; the amount of the expected recovery. However, despite your written agreement, your fees are still subject to assessment.

Using PCLaw to track all of your time and expenditures can go a long way towards helping you justify your fees at the assessment hearing. As previously mentioned, Sylvia Loyens has written a very good article which explains why you should be tracking all of the time you spend working in your practice. Here is the link to her article:

Create new matters for contingency files, then track your time normally. You might want to design a custom billing template that shows only hours, and therefore does not show the dollar values.

When the Final Bill is prepared for the client, there will probably be an A/R balance for disbursements, etc. Just bill this client normally until you reach the Billing Information window. Click the contingency button on the right side – enter settlement amount – percentage rate i.e. 30.0 – PCLaw will calculate fees – you can split the contingency fees between lawyers - there is room to add an explanation code and notes - OK. Enter the total owing in Trust Balance window to transfer the funds, OK.

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

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Last week was Pre-Bills; this week we look at Create Bill options. From the LSUC perspective, your invoice journal should be chronological by date and invoice number. If you have to undo a bill, to change something on an invoice, use the same invoice number and date on the replacement invoice. If for some reason too much time has lapsed between the original bill and the replacement, keep a copy of the original invoice, and note on it that this bill was undone and replaced by invoice # 123456.

System Settings – Billing – Options – can  be set to “Select Charges”. This allows you to pick and choose what will be shown on the invoice. This also allows you to write off charges during the billing process. When the selection window opens, place a checkmark beside an item you wish to write off – at bottom click the Write Off button – fees are simply written off as posted. For disbursements, you need to tell PCLaw which account you would like to have the expense entry posted to.

Information Window

The Contingency fees button will be next week’s topic. The Calculate button can be used to increase or decrease fees to the amount the client agreed to, or to offer a discount. Manually changing the amount in the Fees or Disbursements boxes will also cause an adjustment explanation box to open when you click OK. The Allocation button allows you to split the fees among lawyers.

Most law firms leave the default setting unchanged when billing. There is one nice feature for large, complicated matters, with multiple lawyers, and billings over an extended period of time. On the Fees tab, you can select the sorting to lawyer first, date 2nd. This way, all the work performed by each lawyer is grouped together on the invoice.

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

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Pre-bills allow you to review a client’s billing prior to the actual billing and payment from trust. A careful review of the pre-bill avoids the necessity of reversing payments and undoing bills to correct simple errors.

Rather than printing off the pre-bills, review them on the screen in PCLaw. Why? Because, when you see something that needs to be changed, you can simply double click on the entry and make the change immediately. Then click the reload button to see your changes.

Pre-bills also give you an opportunity to review the matter and confirm that you have recovered all of the expenses related to this matter.

You should also be reviewing the totals on the pre-bills. Is this figure in line with what you quoted the client? You can avoid client billing disputes by making adjustments to the fees on the pre-bill or entering a new negative fee to note a discount.

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