Staff Manual | Software & Legal Aid
Petersen Legal operates two main suites of software:
Microsoft Office (including Word, Excel and Outlook); and,
Microsoft Office is our main word processing, appointment keeping and email software.
LEAP is a legal software package that includes all of our client’s files and information, accounting and intellectual property (precedents, court documents, etc.).
As part of your initial training at Petersen Legal you will be instructed on how to use the LEAP package.
Like many other law firms, Petersen Legal operates both time-based and work-based billing.
Time-based billing is based on the amount of time a lawyer takes to do a task – for instance, a sit-down meeting with a client (an office attendance) or a phone call with a client (telephone attendance). These are billed in 6-minute units: one hour is 10 x 6 minute units (60min). If something takes less than a unit, it is rounded up to the nearest unit (an 8 minute phone call = 2 units.)
The actual cost depends on who is doing the work. Different solicitors bill at a different rate per hour.
Work-based billing is based on the size or amount of a document. For instance, drawing legal documents is billed per page. Letters and emails may be billed at different rates depending on whether they are formal (just a simple email, maybe a sentence long); ordinary (a standard letter), or special (complicated legal advice with a high degree of effort, billed per folio. A folio is 100 words.)
An easy rule of thumb: unless you’re told otherwise, it’s probably Ordinary.
As you do your work, you should use the Time Sheet software to put your work on a file. The most common taskcodes are the following:
Task Code Stands for
oac Office attendance with client
tac Telephone attendance with client
afcs Attendance of file to consider and give instructions to staff
afd Attendance on file to draw (used for legal documents, per page)
afcc Attendance on file to consider correspondence
aa Attendance at … (used for court attendances, travel, etc.)
eto Email to (ordinary)
ltc Letter to (formal)
lto Letter to (ordinary)
ltfol Letter to (special, per folio)
Legal Aid billing
Petersen Legal operates a significant number of files where payment for our work is approved, and later paid, by the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania (LACT).
To simplify: LACT operates two main divisions. The first runs community outreach and offices around the state and has their own lawyers, acting for people in financial need. The second is a funding division (the Grants Office), which provides funding to both their own lawyers and to private law firms to represent people.
The policies and rules around legal aid funding is complex. They will fund some things, but not others. Most legal aid funding is concentrated in family law parenting, criminal law and child protection cases. Legal Aid will not fund family law property (with exceptions), traffic crimes (like drink driving) or civil cases. They will refuse funding if a client has too much money or earns too high an income.
Getting legal aid funding
Legal Aid first must approve funding before we perform work. If funding is refused, clients have the choice to pay at ordinary rates, or we are not able to assist at all.
To obtain legal aid funding, we use the legal aid eLodge system. You will be supplied with the log-in information in your training.
To get the information required to complete the forms in eLodge, you will need four things:
1. Pre-Fill: some law firms provide printed legal aid forms. We ask our clients to complete the form on our website, which them provides the form to us. It is in client resources -> legal aid -> Legal Aid Application on our webpage.
This form provides their basic information, such as name, address, income, etc.
2. The Work Item – what stage/grant are we applying for? Ask the solicitor if they haven’t included it on their memorandum.
3. “The Blurb” – the Legal Aid form requires an explanation of the case, and also detail about which kind of work we are seeking funding for (Work Items). Get these from the solicitor handling the file.
You will usually find them on your dictation or memo, but chase up if you can’t find it.
4. Other Financial Documents – if the client is partnered and either are working, Legal Aid will almost certainly require that we supply both of their bank statements for the last 3 months and payslips for at least 3 fortnights. These are sent to the grants office by email.
If the pre-fill indicates the client has employment, just hit up the clients now to forward their financial documents. No need to wait.
Once you successfully complete a legal aid application, the eLodge software will invite you to a print a copy. Print this to LEAP and assign it to the client file.
Claiming legal aid funding
Once work is complete on a task, the solicitor will ask you to “claim aid”. This is a three-step process:
Go on to eLodge and select the file and work item. Then complete the process to claim the funds and draw up the invoice. Put a copy of this invoice on the client file on LEAP.
Put a taskcode on the client file in LEAP using the taskcode LACTGRANT. The amount of this should be for the same amount as the Legal Aid invoice is step 1 including GST.
Send an email to Joseph / the Accounts Clerk to finalise the invoice.
Legal Aid Contributions
When people are first granted legal aid funding on a file they are usually required to pay a contribution. This contribution is payable to us, not to the Commission. Instead, the Commission will deduct it from our payments when we claim reimbursement from them.
If a person is granted funding for the first time, check the Approval letter we receive. It will usually show the amount of the contribution.
Input this amount with the taskcode LACTCON on the client’s LEAP file, and draw a Tax Invoice for just this entry. Then send out the invoice to the client once it has been approved.
Sometimes, Legal Aid refuses funding. A copy of the refusal should immediately be forwarded to the client. They have 14 days from the date of refusal to seek a review of that decision from the Review Committee – a process we are happy to help with, but the time limit is strict.
Keep in mind that decisions back from the Review Committee normally take about 2 months.
LEAP - Correspondence Window
Tabs: Each file has a number of tabs: the main ones for use are the Correspondence tab (shown above) and the Time & Fees and Office Accounting tabs. More about the accounting tabs is shown below.
To create a new document, letter or email on a file, select New Document or New Email. These will then open in Microsoft Word or Outlook. When finished and saved, they will save in to the Correspondence window here.
All communications with clients should be saved on to the file. The most common way of doing this is to create a File Note (under New Document) and saving the details here.
Do not delete documents from here, even if you’ve made a mistake. But, as part of our system’s security measures, all deletions are traceable and recoverable – so don’t panic if you do.
There is also a large number of precedents – either court documents, or internally made precedents (such as commonly used letters, guides, client advice letters, etc.). You can access these through Guides & Precedents.
The details for the client, anyone involved in the case, and some of the LEAP information required (such as the Court File number, whether our client is the Applicant/Respondent, etc.) are attached through the Cards on the system. These are then attached to the file in the Matter Tables. This also enables you to automatically have letters/emails drawn to that person when you create one through New Document / New Email.
If someone doesn’t have a card made up on the system yet – make one.
All of the documents, emails, letters and other electronic documents on any file are saved in the Correspondence section. Some files use sub-folders to help split up the communications. A few of our naming conventions at Petersen Legal:
DRAFT at the start of a file name means it has not yet been sent to the other side. Often this is a draft letter to the other side, which has been sent to our own client first for checking.
FINAL is the opposite; it has been sent. The file name should also when (ie. “sent XX.XX.XX”)
SEALED means a court seal has been placed on this copy of the document.
TAC = Telephone Attendance with Client
OAC = Office Attendance with Client
TAW = Telephone Attendant with (someone else)
OAW = Office Attendance with (someone else)
Each of these should be followed by a short explanation. For instance “TAC re Outstanding Account” or “OAW John Smith re witness statement”
You will also see that, if you right-click on a document, a menu appears with various options. A few helpful ones:
Extract to Matter : copies an email attachment and makes it a file on our system in its own right. This allows us to manipulate, edit, and attach to future emails.
History of Changes: we do not save multiple drafts of the same document. Instead, LEAP allows us to track the changes to a document and revert to an old version using this feature.
Create PDF: It is firm policy that documents should not be sent out in Word DOC format. This is both to protect our intellectual property, but also to prevent deliberate (or accidental) changes to the document. Keep in mind, however, that LEAP will ordinarily convert documents to PDF on emails and the like without you needing to select this option.
Documents should not be sent outside the firm in Word DOC format unless a solicitor authorises.