Fee Management and "Bill of Costs"
Whatever the reason, drafting a Bill of Costs is a complete nightmare. Different attorneys will approach this tedious, time-consuming task with the appropriate levels of WAB (Work Avoidance Behaviour):
- Shuffling the bill to the bottom of your to-do list.
- Taking it home on the week-end - only to leave it in the boot of the car until Monday.
- Giving it to the clerk so he/she can make a proper mess of it!
- Eventually conceding and sending it to a cost consultant….who charges you 12.5%
Little wonder it takes weeks and sometimes months to draw up a bill of costs and then have it taxed!
Admin postponed is admin multiplied!
As with any "administration intensive" process, the big problem with drafting a Bill of Costs lies in how you capture and collate fee information at source. The moment you decide to "batch" capture information, after the fact… then you have chosen a path that is filled with irritation; frustration and laborious time wasting! Just ask anyone who has not kept a log book all year and then has to complete one for a tax return at the end of the year…. it is almost not worth the trouble!
Capture as you do the work… and don't duplicate!
This is easier said than done. There are a few caveats to this statement:
- You have to have implemented the right systems in order to be in a position to capture work as it is done "in the correct format"!
- Once information (fees and disbursements in this case) is captured, you have to be able to use the information to extrapolate different results from one set of data.
I am only aware of one piece of software that will allow you to do this - GhostPractice. GhostPractice has designed what we believe to be the first truly functional "Draft Bill of Costs" generator. Here is how the system works:
- The gazetted tariff is built into the system.
- This means that when any of your users work on a matter, they can use the "tariff structure" to easily record fees as they go along in any given matter.
- They DO NOT have to charge the tariff rate and can happily charge their usual "Attorney Own Client"/Agreed rates to the client.
There is also a "linked code" facility which will automatically charge for one or more tariff items as you choose a particular tariff item on the list:
a. Choose a Summons and the system could (for example) also bill automatically for a "Perusal" or "Attendance" fee as is allowed by the tariff (or by your taxing master specific to the district you serve in).
b. The linked code does not have to appear on your Attorney Own Client bill to your client, but you have that option available as well (again at the preferred or arranged rate you have in place with your clients).
Once you reach a point in any litigious matter, where you need to draft a "Bill of Costs", you merely choose this menu item in GhostPractice and the "Bill of Costs" will generate in Microsoft Word, in the prescribed format. It can still be edited and manipulated, but the beauty is that the system has, without any duplication:
- Recorded all fees as generated by all users involved in that particular litigious matter.
- Kept an up to date "Unbilled" account of fees and disbursements which you intend billing to the client (you may have also converted many of these fees into invoices, which the client may already have paid).
- Simultaneously the system has kept a record of all Party & Party or Attorney Client fees on the appropriate scale.
- At any point in the matter, a Bill of Costs can be generated in a matter of seconds; irrespective of how you have billed your client.
So in summary, there are three key principles involved in automating this notoriously "administrative" process:
- You should be running an automated fee management system.
- That system should be linked in real time to your accounts system so that billing clients is a seamless process.
- The same mechanism that allows you to bill clients efficiently should, without any duplication, allow you to produce a Bill of Costs on demand.
If you would like to investigate this further, please feel free to contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the writer on 082 568 4738
Yours in Law