Fee Earner: Getting Started

Note

This section covers the basic operation of LawPracticeZA for Fee Earners. Once familiar with LawPracticeZA, help on all Fee Earners functions is available in the Fee Earner User Guide.

Receive a new instruction from client

LawPracticeZA is based on the concept of Clients and Matters.

Think of a Matter as an instruction from a client. So for every Matter, there must be a Client.

All fees and disbursements relating to the instruction are captured against the Matter, and when appropriate, invoiced. Payments received from clients are similarly captured against the Matter.

If a new client, add the client

For new Clients, a client record must be added. Matters (instructions) from the client are then linked to the client.

Only a small number of fields are mandatory, marked with an asterisk (*). The other fields can be completed at any time, if required. For details, see the User Guide section of the manual.

Add the Matter

Matter, instructions from the client, are linked to a client, so a client must be opened before you can open a matter.

Only a small number of fields are mandatory, marked with an asterisk (*). The other fields can be completed at any time, if required. For details, see the User Guide section of the manual.

Note

Every Matter has an ‘owner’: a Fee earner. When a Fee earner logs in, all his or her matters are included in the Diary Pie-chart for selection, in the Fees written chart for the current and previous month and in Draft Invoice Items, accessible via the Dashboard.

Receive payment from client

Payments received from clients are referred to as Matter Receipts in the books of the firm, recorded against the clients Matter, and can be either Trust or Business receipts.

If payment for work done

If the payment received is for work done and invoiced, payment should be have been received into the business bank account.

https://lawpracticeza.com/customerpayment/capture

If deposit for work to be done

If the payment received from the client is for work to be done, i.e. a deposit, or to pay a third party, then the payment must be received into the trust bank account.

https://lawpracticeza.com/customerpayment/capture

Capture a fee or disbursement

A Fee and/or disbursement is captured against a Matter as unbilled (WIP) and subsequently invoiced, on demand. Unbilled fees and disbursements can be modified or deleted.

Start by selecting a Matter. This can be done in a number of ways, the most common being

  1. Using the search. Either press / or click on the magnifying glass, and enter any part of the existing clients name or matters description, and select the Matter.
  2. From the Dashboard Pie Chart of Due and Overdue Matters. Click on a segment (e.g. Due) and a list of diarised Matters, with diary note per matter, is displayed. Load a Matters details by clicking on the Matter description.
  3. Draft invoice items from the Dashboard, where all WIP for the logged in fee earner is displayed with a summary and total amount per Matter. The trust balance on the Matter is displayed: useful to establish what will be available for transfer if a Matter is invoiced.

Once selected, scroll down to Capture Fees (or press Enter). Select whether time-based (e.g. Consultation)  or unitary (e.g. travelling or photocopies) or Disbursements (e.g. Advocates account) and complete the details. The Fee level selected on the Matter determines the default selection, which can be changed.

Accepting the fee will add an entry to Unbillled under Transactions. As unbilled, fees and disbursements can be edited or deleted.

Note

Unbilled fees and disbursements are displayed with the most recent entry first, whereas on a proforma invoice and invoice, fees and disbursements are displayed in chronological order. The order within a day can be changed by changing the time that the fee was recorded.

Invoice client

Scroll down to Transactions. To check invoice details before processing, a proforma invoice can be selected at any time, as a proforma does not generate any accounting entries or update balances. Before producing a proforma or invoice, line-items can be selected (all selected by default). You can also select only Disbursements or Fees by clicking the appropriate heading. Only selected fees and disbursements will be included in the proforma or invoice (usually all - the default).

Invoicing converts unbilled fees and disbursements on a Matter to an accounting entry, and generates an invoice, which can be emailed to the client directly from the Matter (or proformas and invoices can be emailed in bulk, selectively, in various ways). The email address used is: -

  1. The Invoice email on the matter, if present.
  2. The Invoice email on the Client, if present.
  3. The email on the Client, mandatory field (i.e. if the above are blank, this is the default email address for emailing invoices and proforma invoices to clients.

As an accounting entry, to ‘cancel’ an invoice, it is necessary to generate a credit note. This is standard accounting practice, as an audit trail is required for all accounting entries, i.e. you cannot simply make an invoice ‘disappear’ if in error.

If you need to credit (reverse) an invoice,

  1. Select the invoice: click on the invoice number under Accounting Entries.
  2. In the top right corner of the invoice are a number of icons:
    1. The ‘Copy to unbilled’ icon returns all the invoice line items to their original unbilled state. This is useful where the incorrect client or matter has been billed, a different invoice address is required or where you need to make changes and re-invoice the client. The recovered unbilled entries can be moved to another Matter (see Move Selected when Unbilled is selected).
    2. The ‘Reverse’ icon (left-arrow) will generate a credit note, which effectively reverses all the accounting entries and balances, producing a credit note and credit note transaction on the Matter.

The original invoice and reversal (mirror image credit note) can be ‘hidden’ on the Statement to client: see the Hide Reversals / Show Reversals toggle.

Consult with Advocate or other third party on behalf of your client

When consulting with an advocate (or other third party), or acquiring a service on behalf of a client (referred to as a disbursement), it is necessary to raise two entries.

  1. The ‘purchase’ of the service from the 3rd party. This is done by posting the suppliers invoice, e.g. the invoice from the Advocate. This is a bookkeeper function.
  2. The ‘sale’ of the service as a disbursement to the client. This is captured as an unbilled disbursement against the Matter (a Fee Earner function), and subsequently invoiced.

Note

Both the ‘sale’ and ‘purchase’ can be captured by the fee earner (option to capture expense when capturing disbursement) or by Bookkeeper (option to capture disbursement when capturing Suppliers invoice). Also note that the suppliers (scanned) account can be attached to the transaction, and will be included as an attachment to the invoice sent to the client via LawPracticeZA.

All suppliers (creditors), whether Advocates, Sheriffs, Expert Witnesses or Tracing Agents (typically for disbursements) must have a Supplier account opened. Suppliers are paid out of business after a trust transfer. Suppliers also include business creditors, such as your stationery supplier.

Supplier accounts maintain a list of all associated accounting transactions, with a balance, which can be viewed via the Account Enquiry option. There is also a Suppliers Age Analysis available. Note that for Suppliers, an invoice is a credit and a payment a debit in the books of the firm. Where the expected business balance for a client is a debit balance, for a supplier (creditor), it is a credit balance. This is a universal bookkeeping standard.

The ‘sale’ is captured as a Disbursement against the Matter, and subsequently invoiced. See Capture a Fee or Disbursement above. If registered for VAT, enter the ex VAT amount, as VAT is calculated and added by LawPracticeZA. There is a debate over whether a firm that is registered for VAT should charge VAT for a disbursement where the supplier (e.g. Advocate) is not registered. To accommodate those with a view that VAT should not be charged, a non-vatable posting code can be created and used to raise the disbursement as non-vatable.

Note

Add suppliers account, if not already open. https://lawpracticeza.com/supplier/list

Process Suppliers invoice

When entering the supplier invoice line-item, select the ‘Disbursement cost’ account for advocates or other 3rd parties providing services on behalf of the client (else the appropriate expense account if not a disbursement). Tip. use the filter to quickly find the account you are looking for (e.g. dis for Disbursement Costs).

If the supplier is registered for VAT, enter the ex VAT amount, as VAT is calculated by LawPracticeZA.

For Disbursements, the suppliers invoice represents the ‘purchase’. The Disbursement option, which raises a disbursement on the client, represents the ‘sale’

https://lawpracticeza.com/purchaseinvoice/capture

Pay Supplier

Record a payment made from the business bank to a supplier (business creditor) using menu option Supplier Payment.

Supplier accounts contains all invoices and payments, with balances that are aged (Supplier Age Analysis).

https://lawpracticeza.com/supplierpayment/businesspayment

Pay 3rd party on behalf of client (from trust)

Where trust is being held on behalf of a client to pay a 3rd party (e.g. SARS in a property transaction), payment is made from the trust bank, posted against the Matter.

Note

This is a ‘Bookkeeper’ function, so not available to a Fee Earner who does not also have bookkeeper rights. This explanation is provided here so that Fee Earners have a more complete understanding of how payments made to clients affect the Matter account. A Matter Statement (option available when Accounting Entries on a Matter is selected) provides a record of all accounting entries, split between Business, Trust and Investment transaction, and includes invoices and payments, balances owing by the client and amounts held in trust or invested on behalf of the client.

https://lawpracticeza.com/matterpayment/capture