Cost Recovery Framework
3. OBSERVATIONS – TIMEKEEPING
Legal practitioners (counsel and paralegals) and CS staff need to adhere to the requirements of the National Timekeeping Protocol in recording their time.
Accurate and complete timekeeping information supports the effective planning, funding, and management of departmental activities. In the Department all legal practitioners (counsel and paralegals) and computer specialists (CSs) are required to record their time in iCase in accordance with the National Timekeeping Protocol (NTP). Section 3.1 of the NTP states:
“to help ensure data integrity, time should be recorded on a daily basis or as soon as practically possible thereafter”.
We found that some legal practitioners do not comply with NTP requirements regarding timely recording of their time into iCase. The practitioners interviewed noted that while they log their time on a daily basis, they often enter their time into iCase at the end of the month or later. LPMD provided sample data for a random three-week period. These data showed that 33% of the total timekeeping hours were entered into iCase more than 10 days following the sample period. This can cause delays in processing billings, which, in turn, affects the cash position of the Department. The 2007 Internal Audit Report of iCase stated that time is often entered retroactively after a lengthy period and the lead counsel is not required to periodically provide an official record of assurance that the time recorded against files is correct. The report also noted the effect this has on data integrity:
“There have been some poor timekeeping practices by certain sections or staff, such as bulk time entry against a few files and time recorded infrequently. These practices are likely to introduce inaccuracies.”
While the regimen of private practice timekeeping in six-minute units of account (i.e. timekeeping of every one-tenth of an hour) may be unnecessary at the Department of Justice, not entering time in accordance with the NTP is an unsound business practice. We also noted that guidelines issued to some practitioners provide up to 30 days to enter timekeeping following the end of a month. This practice causes significant delays in presenting invoices to client departments for settlement and is inconsistent with the NTP. Quebec is the only regional office where management requires legal practitioners to enter timekeeping data into iCase daily. Weekly entry of time is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
The Department must ensure that timekeepers enter their time into iCase regularly, preferably daily. The Department could consider incorporating this requirement into the performance appraisal process.
Legal practitioners in the regions contacted are recording time to miscellaneous and general client files contrary to NTP requirements, which delays cost recovery.
Cost details on invoices need to be clearly specified and readily identifiable for the client. Consequently, charges entered by legal practitioners against client accounts should clearly specify the client file that was worked on. Section 3.4.2 of the iCase National Timekeeping Protocol stipulates:
“Time should be recorded to a specific client or specific corporate Justice file and the use of miscellaneous files should be avoided whenever possible.”
Client administrative staff within the DLSUs reported that legal practitioners in regional offices sometimes enter time in iCase against a client general file or a miscellaneous file instead of a specific client (case) file. They indicated that this should not be permitted because it is administratively difficult to identify to which client file the costs should be assigned. The DLSUs and portfolios noted that billing against a client general file or miscellaneous file can delay the payment of the entire invoice.
Legal practitioners should adhere to the provisions of section 3.4.2 of the National Timekeeping Protocol.
Recommendation and Management Response
8. It is recommended that the ADM, Management Sector, remind departmental managers that legal practitioners and CS staff must comply with the requirements of the National Timekeeping Protocol for recording of time into iCase.
Agree. The Management Sector will ensure that appropriate and periodic communications are disseminated to all practitioners on the need to comply with the requirements of the NTP. In addition, the Management Sector will request that the Department’s Executive Committee take action to promote and monitor adherence to the NTP
Recommendation and Management Response
9. It is recommended that the ADM, Management Sector, remind legal practitioners of the need to comply with the National Timekeeping Protocol with respect to entry of time to miscellaneous and general client files.
Agree. The importance of recording time to a specific client file or a specific corporate Justice file rather than to a general or miscellaneous file whenever possible will be among the key messages identified in communications regarding the need for compliance with the National Timekeeping Protocol. Efficiency and effectiveness remain guiding principles for establishing standards with respect to the opening of files. See response to Recommendation 8.
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