Report on the Audit of Timekeeping Practices

4. Background

The Department of Justice Canada (the Department) provides legal services to federal government departments and agencies across Canada. Up to 2014, there had been steady growth in the demand, and corresponding cost, for these legal services across the Government of Canada (the Government). This led the Department to undertake a Legal Services Review (LSR) in 2014. The goal of the LSR was for the Department to spearhead government-wide efforts to manage the demand and supply for legal services, thereby containing legal services costs and ensuring that legal services are fiscally sustainable in the long term.

Through the LSR, the Department launched a series of measures designed to improve productivity, cost effectiveness and business excellence of its operations. One of these measures to support the Department’s ongoing commitment to managing business performance was an initiative to identify opportunities to meet increased demand for legal services without expanding the Department’s workforce. One action undertaken was to amend the targets placed on legal counsel and paralegals for hours devoted to client files each year. The new standard was set at 1400 hours of time worked on legal files, an increase of 90 hours from the previous level of 1310 hours.

With the implementation of the new 1400 hour standard, the Department’s management recognized that improvements to timekeeping practices would be required. To address this need, the National Timekeeping Protocol (NTP) was updated to include more precise definitions in the Timekeeping Information Architecture with respect to time spent on client files and internal activities of the Department.

Managers are responsible for monitoring the timekeeping of their employees to ensure that it conforms with the requirements of the NTP. Business Practice Division (BPD) of Management Sector is the designated process owner for timekeeping and holds responsibility for department-level monitoring and reporting on timekeeping practices, including conformance to the NTP.

One of the key tools that supports the NTP and the recording of time is iCase. iCase is a web-based national application that supports the practice of law and the management and delivery of legal services to Government with the following functions: case management, document management, operational reports, and time management. All legal counsel and paralegals are required to record their time in iCase, unless exempted from mandatory timekeeping in accordance with the NTP. To record time, the timekeeper must complete a timeslip in iCase that captures the applicable file number, file name and activity performed, a start time and end time (i.e. duration) and optional accompanying notes.

This audit is intended to provide an early progress report on the implementation of the amended NTP.

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