Powerful and Flexible Accounting & Business Management Software

Challenges facingLaw Firms


Today's law firms are facing challenges as never before. Since 2008, the economy has been slow to recover, which not only restricts practice income, but also increases bad debts and influences the price that clients are willing to pay for legal services. This “more for less” challenge along with the increasing requirement for fixed fee arrangements is putting downward pressure on hourly rates and forcing law firms to re-think their strategy. It has been said that law firms are simply a business, although many in the profession still disagree with this view. However there can be no question that the challenges facing law firms today are clearly business issues, which means that law firms need to skill up on business management and strategy if they are to succeed in the future.

In his book “Tomorrow's Lawyers” the world's leading legal technology futurist, Richard Susskind, speaks of an unstoppable move to commoditisation in legal services. Of course, that won't happen overnight, but the drive to reduce costs means that law firms are always looking for commodity opportunities such as conveyancing and debt recoveries to increase income. Unfortunately, commoditisation brings with it a new set of challenges, such as increased competition and efficiency. Legislation such as the Legal Practice Act will exacerbate this aspect and to make matters even more difficult, younger lawyers are not afraid to go into practice on their own, increasing competition in the marketplace.

Clients are also adding to the pressure, not only in terms of demanding more for less, but also dictating discounts on fees and insisting on time-consuming custom reporting on their matters. There is very little loyalty among the major corporate clients these days, which means that law firms need to perform or they will be removed from the panel. Given that most of these volume client relationships are in effect “fixed fee arrangements” law firms have no choice but to improve their efficiency levels in order to reduce the costs of doing such work.

Of course this is easier said than done, since law firms have already cut back on their expenses wherever possible following the crash in 2008. This means that they can now only look to increased productivity and efficiency if they are to improve performance. Ten years ago, law firms could survive without making use of the latest technology, but today firms have no choice but to use modern software and hardware to manage their operations. Aspects such as trust accounting, debt management, matter/case management, time recording, invoicing on demand, document production, and client reporting are all near-impossible without the aid of a competent legal accounting and practice management system. Put simply, every law firm needs to embrace technology in order to survive the challenges facing the profession today. There is just no other way around it.

AJS Accounting SystemOverview


Since its first release in 1979, the AJS Professional Accounting System has been enhanced and updated constantly, making it the most comprehensive legal and professional accounting software package in Southern Africa. Today, over five hundred law firms and corporates of all sizes trust AJS to manage their finances, with one in five law firm staffers using AJS to organise their daily tasks.

AJS has at its foundation a time-proven accounting system with over 30 years of successful trust audits to its credit, an achievement of which we are justifiably proud. Whether you are a single practitioner or a major international law firm, AJS is scalable enough and flexible enough to meet your needs. To ensure compliance with audit recommendations, the AJS system makes use of 7-column ledger with support for multi-branch, multi-currency, multi-ledger, and multi-trust/business bank accounts. Standard features include batch posting, batch importing of transactions, online receipts, online cheque printing, invoicing options, bank reconciliation, debtors and creditors, asset register, investments, flexible reporting, and a host of other features you would expect from a world-class accounting solution.

However, it isn't only the power and flexibility of the product that sets AJS apart; it is also the quality of support that AJS provides to its clients. It is worth mentioning that a number of our clients have been with AJS for over twenty years – further testimony to AJS' quality and longevity. With offices in all of South Africa's main centres, AJS is the logical choice for professional firms who value customer service. Built on top of the Universe SQL database, AJS is extremely robust. That means that your financial information is secure - even if you are running AJS over a distributed branch infrastructure. Regardless of the size of your firm, AJS remains incredibly fast, returning matter enquiries in a matter of seconds.

Despite AJS' obvious advantages over the competition, the development team is always hard at work providing full support for next generation “work from anywhere” devices such as the iPad and Internet Browsers. In addition to the advanced software and the “talked about” levels of customer service, AJS goes even further with an “all-in” pricing package that includes on-going product version updates, training, and support. This means that clients can budget for a fixed monthly price, regardless of whether additional training or support is required.

AJS remains at the forefront of legal accounting and practice management in South Africa, and through its time-proven accounting and its powerful productivity features, it continues to be the logical choice for law firms that are serious about their finances.

AJSBenefits

  • AJS is a secure investment. With AJS you can rest assured that you are making a sound purchase decision. Today, more than five hundred law firms of all sizes trust AJS to manage their money. You'll also be pleased to know that AJS has been around for nearly thirty years, which means that teething problems have long since been ironed out and the system has been enhanced over time to meet the unique needs of any law practice. However, that's not all that makes AJS the right choice for your firm. It is a known fact that accounting departments in law firms are often criticized for their trust accounts being out of balance. That's why AJS makes use of a seven column ledger, recommended by auditors throughout South Africa for accurate trust and business accounting. It may also be comforting to know that AJS has passed nearly thirty years of trust audits through its clients - an achievement of which we are justifiably proud.

  • AJS saves time. In addition to the time saving features in AJS accounting such as direct debiting, on-demand invoicing, batch imports, bank reconciliations, electronic invoices/statements, and single-screen enquiries, AJS also saves time through its smart functions. For example, the document attachments module ensures that all information pertaining to a matter is stored with that matter, including letters, faxes, emails, invoices, statements, and SMS messages. The contacts module ensures that you don't need to re-capture client information for new matters, which saves time and improves accuracy, and the FICA module helps the firm to simplify your compliance requirements. Last but not least, for case management and processes such as Debt Recovery and Litigation, AJS not only produces the documents on-the-fly, but it also records the next action to be taken in its electronic diary, saving time and ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks.

  • AJS increases fees. AJS incorporates a number of powerful fee-increasing aspects. For example, by debiting fees and disbursements as they happen rather than guessing at an invoice at the end of the month, firms ensure that no billing is forgotten. Through the use of direct debiting codes, firms are also able to extract the maximum fees from an invoice. And, by using AJS to produce invoices and statements rather than typing them on Microsoft® Office Word, firms also ensure that no fees are forgotten. With AJS, fee-earner performance is monitored via the system, which invariably increases productivity.

  • AJS reduces costs. There are a number of ways in which AJS assists law firms to reduce costs. In addition to the more conventional savings such as telephone, printing, postage, time, etc., AJS also reduces costs by storing all information pertaining to a matter or client directly in the AJS system, so that fee-earners and bookkeepers won't waste time searching for missing documents. You'll also save money by emailing your invoices and statements to your clients instead of posting them. And, since client contact information and FICA information is kept on file, information doesn't need to be re-captured each time a client brings a new matter to the firm, which saves time.

  • AJS improves cash flow. Through the use of work-in-progress (WIP) billing, AJS ensures that your firm won't pay VAT or Income Tax prematurely, and since firms can print invoices or statements on demand, client invoices can be raised well before month end, which improves cash flow. In addition, the descending order age analysis helps firms to manage their debtors. And, since invoices and statements are stored with each matter, copies of invoices and statements can be sent to clients instantly via email, ensuring that clients can't use 'missing invoices' as an excuse for non-payment of their account. Another useful feature is that bookkeepers can add notes to the client or matter file - for example, reasons for non-payment. This assists bookkeepers with the firm's own debt recoveries. Another way AJS assists firms to improve cash flow is through a no-movement report which identifies potential fees forgotten in the trust account. All of these aspects help the law firm to optimise their cash flow.

  • AJS puts you in control. Partners or directors with access permissions can use AJS to view the fee books of all fee-earners in their department or across the entire practice. This allows partners to monitor fee-earner performance and to forecast fees for the month. AJS also provides a number of management reports which assist partners and directors to stay in control. For example, the fee-earner report, which shows the fees written by all fee-earners or departments, and the descending age analysis report, which will highlight which of the firm's clients owe it the most money. Using the powerful tools in AJS, practice management becomes a reality.

  • AJS helps your firm to grow. The AJS contacts system helps you to manage the people-relationships in your client base. The system stores detailed information about each contact, and can be used for sending various communications such as marketing letters, invitations, birthday greetings, and newsletters to clients. In today's economy, law firms have to do all they can to retain clients and grow their practices, and it is a known fact that strong relationships with clients invariably brings repeat business from existing clients as well as referrals to new clients.

  • AJS remembers, long after you forget. The diary in AJS ensures that fee-earners don't forget to attend to various tasks on their to-do list. This ensures that tasks are completed on time, and that nothing slips through the cracks, which improves client service. Another great aspect of the system is that the contacts system keeps client information on file so that you won't need to recapture it next time the client makes use of your firm. Archived matters are also kept on file, and even dead-files management is handled by the system - so you'll save time by re-using information. The system also offers a powerful conflict-of-interest search facility, regardless of how many client or matter files you have on record. With AJS, 're-use of information' won't be just another cliche.

  • AJS empowers your staff. Salaries remain the biggest cost for any law firm. So it makes sense that productivity is an extremely important aspect of practice management, and this is where AJS will make a real difference. Properly trained fee-earners and bookkeepers know how to get the most out of AJS, which not only helps the firm to increase fees, but also to reduce costs. To ensure that all users remain productive, should a problem be encountered with the system, users can log the problem via the Internet, or they can call the AJS service desk for assistance. More often than not problems can be corrected via remote login which significantly reduces the cost of ownership.

  • AJS works the way you do. AJS is so flexible that it can be configured to work the way you do, which saves time on training and ensures that the system is able to handle your firm's unique requirements. For example, automated reports can be created for the firm's major clients, such as banks, and custom information fields can be added to AJS so that the system suits any type of law practice.

AJS Legal AccountingFeatures


AJS Full Accounting and Practice Management System The full version of AJS includes all of the features listed in this brochure, with the exception of the Call Centre software, the debt recovery module, and the stand alone XpressDox document generation functionality, all of which are optional. AJS remains the most flexible accounting system on the market – ensuring that all aspects of your practice are catered for.

AJS Small Accounting System For smaller firms, AJS offers an entry level accounting system which contains a subset of the features mentioned in this brochure. Optional functions include the process manager, debt recovery – including the Call Centre System, litigation, foreclosures, customised reports, and advanced document generation. For small firms, AJS also offers an “assisted bookkeeping” facility whereby an external bookkeeper who knows AJS intimately is employed on a part-time contract basis. By making use of a part-time bookkeeper, small firms can save a substantial amount of money whilst ensuring that their finances are properly accounted for.

Trust and Business Accounting AJS includes all of the accounting functions you will ever need for your practice. That's because it has been refined by our clients for over 30 years. The result is a mature, full-featured product that has been well-tested over time. The accounting system includes a Debtors and Creditors Ledger and a flexible General Ledger. It also caters for Trust and Business accounting in accordance with Law Society regulations. To ensure optimal cash-flow, the AJS system even goes so far as to suggest Trust money that is available for transfer to Business.

Seven Column Ledger As recommended by Auditors, AJS is one of the few systems in Southern Africa to offer a comprehensive 7-column ledger: Trust: Debit, Credit and Total; Business: Debit, Credit and Total; and an overall Total. This ensures that financial transactions balance, and it provides the audit trail necessary for the financial year-end audit.

Quick Codes Quick codes speed up the time recording and fee capture functions in AJS significantly. Simply by entering a quick code, the full description and the associated fee is automatically entered. A single quick code can also consist of a group of quick codes, which maximises your fee. To assist you in selecting the correct code, you can perform a search for a particular word in the quick code description, for example “Phone” or “Consult”.

Time Recording & Billing One of the most important aspects for all professional firms is billing for their time, and AJS provides a full set of billing tools to make this process quick and easy. For example, time recording, work in progress capture, and pro-forma and final invoices. Fee-earners can record time spent speaking on the telephone, or while working on a matter. For telephone calls, if a call is less than a minute it is not regarded as billable. Above one minute, AJS rounds the time up to the next six minute intervals. The system also caters for different fee arrangements, including discounted fees, agreed fees, maximum fee, and a credit limit to ensure that your debtors are well controlled. For fee-earners who use iPads, AJS offers an easy-to-use tablet version, making it even easier to record all work done, regardless of location, ensuring that no billing slips through the cracks.

Work in Progress AJS allows users to post time to “Work in Progress” (WIP) if they so wish, which ensures that all time is recorded on the system. The WIP can then be invoiced at any stage, and the user can make changes before the pro-forma or final invoice is produced. Even for matters where the client will not be billed it is often useful to record time to measure profitability.

Disbursements AJS differentiates between fees and disbursements, ensuring that firms measure only the fee component of their revenue.

Electronic Invoices and Statements Another time-and-money saver is that Statements and Invoices may be sent electronically. Matters may be flagged for printing and/or emailing as a PDF document. Since invoices can be created at any time, the ability to email your invoice to the client at any time improves cash flow.

Invoicing AJS allows up to three invoice layouts per firm as standard, which means that departments can have their own statement layout. The firm's logo is added to the invoice, which ensures a consistent look and feel across all accounting documentation. Once a matter is invoiced, it can only be reversed via a credit note, enforcing the integrity of the accounting system, and ensuring it meets with legal and auditing regulations..

Credit Notes Once invoices have been posted, a credit note is necessary to amend the transaction. However, to assist bookkeepers, the credited items are immediately made available for re-invoicing, which saves time and prevents mistakes in re-capture.

Pro-forma Invoicing The system allows users to generate a pro-forma invoice, which is sometimes used as a quotation for clients. Even after the pro-forma invoice is produced, items and amounts may be edited, added, or deleted. This functionality gives firms the ability to pre-invoice, and it allows them to get the invoice layout wording and amounts correct before final invoicing, which saves time.

Account Enquiries The enquiry facility in AJS is the most powerful and flexible in the legal accounting industry. Users can elect to see only financial transactions, or to optionally include all notes and attachments. To make searching more accurate, enquiries can be effected using a number of search criteria, including account name, account number, or various other aspects such as account name, phone number, etc. Regardless of how many accounts you have, the search results are returned almost instantaneously thanks to the powerful underlying database system.

Quickview AJS includes a customisable “Quickview” panel on the main screen, which provides a snapshot of the most important information for that matter. Different information may be displayed for each department; for example a debt recovery matter might include contact information, a capital balance and a settlement amount, plus date and amount of the last payment. The Quickview allows the user to see the most important information for a matter instantly, saving time.

Fee Report Summary Closely linked to the Quickview is a Fee Report which pops up each time AJS is loaded. For example, a department head might see the total fees for their entire department, whereas a user will simply see their own fees. This ensures that everyone knows how much they have billed (or not billed) on a daily basis.

Requisitions The AJS system caters for both EFT (electronic funds transfer) and cheque requisitions. For increased security, the Requester and Authoriser should be different users, so for example, a secretary might capture the requisition, but a bookkeeper or partner/director would authorise the payment.

Cheque Printing For those firms that print cheques, AJS allows for any number of cheque printers, which print onto pre-printed stationery. Today, most firms prefer EFT to cheques, and as mentioned above, AJS caters for both.

Receipting When monies are received into the Business or Trust accounts, AJS has the option to print receipts on a dot matrix or a laser printer. In the case of the dot-matrix printer, multi-part perforated stationery is used, whereas on the laser printer copies are printed on a single sheet. Once a receipt is posted, AJS has the option to email a notification to those staff members specified for that matter, improving communication in the office and saving time.

Document Attachments (Document Management) Document management ships standard with AJS, and users can attach most media types, including electronic documents, scanned paper documents, emails, diagrams, photographs, and even sound and video clips. This helps firms to move towards a paperless office, since all authorised users can view attached documents on-screen. Attachments can also be emailed directly from the enquiries screen, for example, if a client requires a copy of an invoice or statement. For even more automation, system generated documents may be attached to the matter automatically, for example summonses, copies of invoices and statements, and even SMS messages and emails sent via AJS. Incoming paper documents can be scanned to email using a scanner, and attached via the attachments option in AJS or by simply clicking on the Paperclip icon in Microsoft® Word, Excel, or Outlook. For larger firms, AJS supports certain digital scanners which allow documents to be scanned directly to a matter without going via email first.

Diary and Task Manager AJS includes a powerful, yet easy to use Diary system which may be used manually, or tasks can be scheduled automatically by the AJS Process Manager, for example in debt recovery matters. These automatic reminders ensure that nothing slips through the cracks, improving client service and enhancing productivity at the same time. It is even possible to move diary items from one fee-earner to another, for example in the case of a resignation, leave, or extended sick leave.

Custom Data Fields In keeping with AJS' power and flexibility, it is possible to create additional custom fields without having to embark on any expensive custom software development. Fields are defined during the setup process, ensuring that AJS works the way you want it to, rather than the other way around.

Contacts Management In AJS, clients are first added as “Contacts”. Matters are then linked to these contacts, which means that where a client has multiple matters, or if a client begins a new matter with the firm after some time, contact information only needs to be captured once. The Contacts Manager also allows firms to manage their marketing lists.

Document Generation Documents are one of AJS' strengths. AJS makes use of its own internationally acclaimed document generation software to generate system documents and forms, as well as to compile email and SMS messages. Templates which include data fields from AJS can be created for all document types. These documents can then be attached to the matter or client for later recall, and if required a fee may be levied “on the fly” when a document is produced.

Process Management Another of AJS' major advantages over other systems is its remarkably powerful and flexible process manager. The Process Manager can be used for any process in the firm, for example debt recoveries, litigation, foreclosures, etc. Should it be required, the Process Manager can also function as a stand-alone module. It doesn't end there, since the process manager makes use of AJS' custom field facility, which allows you to completely customise the data fields for each process type.

Debt Collection AJS includes an optional module for “legal” debt recover. This system manages the user's diary automatically, and it produces all required documentation. As for other attachments, these documents are automatically attached to each matter. The system calculates interest automatically, and raises all necessary fees according to the tariff.

Call Centre Software Another optional module in AJS is the unique Call Centre Management system. This programme manages all aspects of the Call Centre, ensuring that throughput is maximised. It is no secret that those firms that make use of the AJS call-centre system far outperform those who run on standard collections software. To speed up productivity even further, AJS Call Centre integrates with most telephony diallers, ensuring that call centre employees get through the maximum number of calls possible. Call campaigns are created to focus the operators, and intelligent reporting provides management with comprehensive information on user performance. Yet another advantage worth mentioning is that the AJS call centre system is a part of AJS, which means that no problematic third party integration is necessary.

AJS Workspace The AJS Workspace is a revolutionary new module that assists users to perform bulk actions on matters quickly and easily, allowing them the flexibility to work the way they want to. Users can process workflow steps, import and export a selected group of matters, post notes and/or fees - and even execute programs and rules for a selected group of matters and/or users. The AJS Workspace is simply way ahead of the competition, ensuring that AJS clients get the most from their investment.

Email and SMS Although AJS can easily attach email sent and received by systems such as Outlook, AJS also has its own email and SMS system. Emails and SMS' sent by the system are automatically attached to the appropriate matter, and as with document attachments, an optional fee may be raised each time an email or SMS is sent. Using the power of the document generation module, templates can be created for all email or SMS messages, which really saves time.

Matter Notes One of the most useful aspects in AJS is the Notes function. Notes may be added to any matter and will not show on the client invoice or statement. In addition, temporary system messages may be displayed for a matter - for example a note that a client is a bad payer, etc. This helps firms to improve customer service and to avoid costly mistakes, since a full record of all interaction with the client is retained with each matter.

File Labels (Cover Sheets) File-cover labels or “sheets” may be printed automatically when a new matter is opened, and each department can have their own layout if needed. This saves time, and ensures that file covers are neat and consistent across the entire firm.

Reporting AJS makes use of the industry-standard Crystal Reports system for its reporting. A large number of standard reports are available in AJS, such as Debtors and Creditors Age Analyses, Invoices, Statements, a Trial Balance, Income Statement, Balance Sheet, etc. In addition to these reports, Crystal Reports allows the design of virtually any report imaginable. Whether you need internal financial reporting, fee-earner reporting, exception reporting, or even custom designed reports for your major clients, AJS handles these with ease.

Scheduled Reporting AJS also has the ability to schedule reports and actions, so they happen at a specified time. For example, month end reporting and procedures, or perhaps where management reports are sent to the partners or directors automatically each month.

Notifications For larger firms, AJS includes a really useful utility which sends an email notification when a payment is received for a matter. This is especially useful for conveyancing practices, for example where a secretary is waiting for the client to pay deposits, etc. Notifications may also be scheduled if a matter goes into credit, or where a matter reaches a pre-set credit limit.

FICA The system includes a Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) module as standard to help firms stay on top of FICA requirements. Indicators provide a graphic indication as to status.

International Currency AJS is one of the few systems in South Africa which cater for international currency and the exchange rate may be adjusted at time of invoicing. This is especially useful where firms do billable work for international clients.

Conflict Checking When taking on new clients it is possible to perform a conflict check in AJS to ascertain whether an identity number or registration number exists on another matter.

Cost Recovery System Integration AJS integrates with most Cost Recovery systems. Cost recovery systems record the costs of printing, copying, faxing, and telephony, and these costs are then exported to AJS for improved disbursement recovery.

Batch processing AJS offers a powerful batch processing utility where data may be imported from Excel. This provides a quick and easy way to capture information, saving time, and increasing accuracy in data capture.

Archiving In order to reduce clutter on the system, AJS transfers closed matters with a zero balance to an archive area on the server. These matters may still be searched, and the full matter history is retained. It is also possible to re-instate an archived matter if necessary.

Dead-filing Utility When matters are archived, AJS records a file-away location which helps users to locate the physical paper file once it has been dead-filed.

Consulting and Practice Analysis AJS offers a practice analysis service where our experienced consultants will analyse all financial aspects of your practice, and make recommendations as to remedial actions where applicable. This service is priced separately to AJS on a once-off basis. Contact us for more information about this service.

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