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Monday, 9 July 2012

Issue in Hidden Rates & Amounts in Security

The PCLaw Security for time recording was very open prior to release of Version 6. Anybody entering Time could see lawyers and rates and edit the rates as well on timesheets. It seems that a lot of customers raised concerns with this and hence the introduction of Time/fee enhancements.
With the raising of the bar on the security options on time recording and reporting, PCLaw Administrators have now the ability to restrict users from accessing selected lawyers, their rates, and also whether the rates and amounts are visible, open to editing or hidden. These enhancements are a good thing since some firms have policies of not allowing their attorneys to know their or other lawyers’ rates, edit the rates, etc.
In version 9 the loophole was that even if a user had no access to view rates on the timesheet, the user could still know the rate he/she is billing at by printing the report from the Time sheet window. The printed Time sheet report would show up the rates. This in essence rubbished the Advanced security settings on Time.
Move on to Version 10: This issue was fixed and if a user has hidden access to the rates/amounts, the report produced from the Time sheet window would not show up the rates/amounts. All security restrictions would be properly enforced in all areas of the program.
However, the problem with Version 10 is that if a higher user or Admin user logs on to PCLaw he/she will only see the hours entered by the low level/restricted user in the Matter Manager and Client Summary report (the amount will appear as 0.00). The Client Ledger and Client WIP reports will however reflect the correct values (Hrs X Rate). The integrity of the data is not compromised in any way since the values are still present – it’s only that the Matter Manager and Client Summary reports are not pulling the values - they are only pulling the hours.
To get round the above one has to run Reset Matter Balances under Verify Data Integrity. Once this is done the Matter Manager and Client Summary reports properly displays the values of time entered by the low level user.
It is not practical to run the Reset Matter Balances routine on a transaction basis and as the Matter Manager is the central dashboard for knowing client balances, this is a nuisance in PCLaw and creates needless additional work for ADMIN users in order to comply with company confidentiality policy.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

How to identify Unbilled Expense Recoveries to be removed

A lot of firms have a policy to bill soft costs (i.e. expense recoveries – courier, printing, photocopies, stationery, phones, etc) at point of billing. The following are some of the reasons for doing this:
·    Indiscriminately tracking expense recoveries on matters hypes up the income statement before even the matters have been billed and this distorts the financials of the company.
·    Tax implications – expense recoveries increase the overall revenue and this may increase the tax liability in some jurisdictions before even clients have been billed for the recoveries.
·    VAT Implications – there could be breach of VAT regulations. Some VAT jurisdictions state that VAT is payable at the earlier of a) delivery of goods/services, b) receipt of money or c) issuance of an invoice. VAT only crystallizes at time of billing in PCLaw. By recording recoveries before billing a firm has met the criteria of “delivery of goods/services” even though there is no Output VAT and the client may be billed many months later.
One of the challenges as part of the monthly exercise is to determine if there have been any Expense Recovery items charged on matters that have not yet been billed in the same month. The following reports are not worth running for this purpose:
·    Client Costs Journal: It will give all the expense recoveries entered in the month but it is not possible to determine the billing status.
·    Client Disbursement Analysis and Interest: This can give a list of unbilled soft costs but it is very clogged up and cannot be analyzed.
I have discovered the efficient way to do this is by running the client ledger for the month with the following advanced filters:
Ø  Field: Received From/Paid To
Ø  Comparison: Is Equal To
Ø  Compare To: “Expense Recovery”
The resultant report will give all expense recoveries for the month with the invoice numbers tagged to it for all relevant matters. This report can be exported to Excel for analysis and sorting by invoice number, etc. One can quickly identify whether there have been expense recoveries that should be removed. Once this task is complete, other month end tasks can be completed and accounting restriction date re-set.

Another quicker way is through the Register>Expense tab which can be filtered for all unbilled entries. However for this the user needs access to the Register under Security.
My wish would be for PCLaw to have an option of having a Memorandum account for recording soft recoveries while recognizing the income/expense recoveries (G/L) at point of billing.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Direct Disbursements – Vatable vs. Non-Vatable

For firms operating in a VAT/GST environment, there are no ready reports in PCLaw through which one can tell the vatable disbursements from the non-vatable disbursements. Disbursements on client ledgers stem from the following source journals:

  • General Bank
  • Accounts Payable
  • Expense Recovery
Most firms experience problems at billing time when they realize that direct disbursements that should have been non-vatable (“n”) have inadvertently been treated as vatable (“y”) at data entry. It may be difficult/impossible to go back to the entry and change the VAT allocation because either the payable has been settled, banks having been reconciled or dates are restricted.
To avoid such problems and as part of the monthly workflows, Accountants can run various reports to ensure that the direct disbursements charged on client matters have been properly classified as Vatable/Non-vatable according to local tax rules.
To aid in doing this the custom field “VAT Category for Allocation” on GB and PJ report layouts is very useful. The reports can then be exported to Excel and sorted out by the column for the VAT category to identify any mistakes.
Locating and correcting the VAT status of Unbilled Disbursement entries this way is easier than having to face problems at billing time several months later in the future.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

PCLaw Security – Groups & Advanced User Rights

Security for user in PCLaw is a puzzle to be solved by trial and error method to achieve the optimum level of rights and someting that requires constant updating as firm requirement change, new software versions surface, etc. 
Security broadly is a function of a) Groups and b) Advanced User Rights. A user must be a member of one or more groups and each user can be further subjected to unique restrictions. A firm might want to give more than one feature or function to its group yet have restricted accesses for users.  These may turn out to be conflictive objectives to achieve thus making it difficult for PCLaw Administrators to strike the right balance between functionality and rights.
An example might be user rights for lawyers. The firm might want all lawyers to be able to record their own time, run their own time sheet reports without being able to enter time for other lawyers and see time reports for other lawyers, but with the ability to view the financial reports on matters such as Matter balances, A/R etc. By restricting lawyers from seeing other lawyers’ time, the information they will obtain will be distorted. This is true for a) Billing reports and b) Receivables reports if the Fee elements comprise of work done by other lawyers.
So, if an exception is created for individual users, the exception follows and is enforced upon the users in all areas of the program the users access – that’s how PCLaw works.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Exporting to Excel - General Bank Journals

Every so often Accounts staff have to prepare periodic reports on Excel for receipts & collections and payments and analyse them. To achieve this they would typically export the General Bank Journal using a layout they have designed.

The resultant report opened in Excel may not have multiple allocation line items if a receipt or cheque entry has two allocations. (all entries having either one or more than two allocations will appear correctly). To get round this, use PCLaw's “Default” report layout to open the General Bank Journal in PCLaw before saving it to Excel. Do not use any custom designed layouts. This issue is true as of Version 10.

G/L Statements - Inability to search by Account Name

One of the important features introduced under G/L Statements is the ability to run reports for selected G/L accounts. However, currently only search by account nickname is possible. Searching by G/L account name is not possible. Unless users have crammed in their heads the G/L nicknames of the entire chart of accounts, printing a report for selected G/L account(s) can be a two step process: First, one would go to List>G/L Accounts search for the desired account. Then run G/L Statements and type in the desired G/L account nickname.

One would imagine this is an obvious enhancement needed but unless this search capability is added running G/L Statements may continue to be frustrating particularly for Accountants.