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Practice management toolkit

A compendium of practice management articles written by experts for De Rebus to support you in your practice.

Client first - Leave no doubts in your client’s mind

Some of the elements of client service apply to a legal practitioner’s environment. When a client goes to a practitioner for a legal service, the client already has preconceived expectations. Your first contact or meeting with the client is crucial. The impression created at that meeting has long lasting effects. Read more.

Professional indemnity claims and breaches of the professional duties of an attorney: Is there a link?


It is important that practitioners conduct themselves in accordance with the rules of the profession at all times. A failure to do so may expose the practitioner to disciplinary action by the provincial law society and also to professional indemnity (PI) claims. Thomas Harban from the AIIF points out that not every PI claim will constitute the basis for a disciplinary inquiry against the practitioner concerned and, likewise, not every disciplinary action taken by the provincial law society will constitute a basis for a PI claim. Read more.

Susceptible to scams?
In order to position yourself and limit the probability of being scammed and – ultimately losing money to fraudsters – it is important that you have a good understanding of how your stakeholders operate, what their service offering is and how they would interact with you. Some of the attempts made by the fraudsters may appear to be obvious, but these may not be so obvious to everyone, and continue to be experienced by some legal firms. In this article, the Attorneys Fidelity Fund  will, in an attempt to raise awareness, share some of the scams perpetrated against attorneys. Read more.

Letters of engagement – documenting the ambit of the instruction given to the attorney
This article addresses the importance of recording where the practitioner’s mandate ends, namely, what services does the client expect the attorney to render and at what stage will the mandate in respect of a particular matter or instruction be fulfilled? Read more.

Does your practice have an effective risk management plan?
A practice has no control over external risks, but internal risks can be avoided, to a large extent, with effective risk management. This article, by the financial forensic unit of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund, focuses on the professional and reputational risks in a legal practice. Read more.

Applying for a Fidelity Fund Certificate

FFCs are issued by the Attorneys Fidelity Fund through its appointed agencies, namely, the four statutory law societies. The validity period for each issued FFC is a year, from January to December of that year. Practitioners are able to apply for their FFCs for the following year from 1 October of the year preceding the year for which the FFC is required. The financial forensic unit of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund explains how to apply for your FFC. Read more.

Are you in touch with reality …? Starting a new law firm = starting a new business
While running a business may seem the way to go, and while running a business can be the answer to success, it can also be a roller coaster. There are times when business is booming, but there are also times when business is flat or even seems to be buried. Tips from the financial forensic unit of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund on running your new law firm as a new business. Read more.

Are you only a secretary/administration clerk/candidate attorney/paralegal? Each and every member of the law firm has a role to play in the management of risk
Practitioners who delegate or rely on assistants should first read this article and then prescribe it as compulsory reading for support staff. By Ann Bertelsmann
Read more.

Does cyber risk impact the practitioners’ environments? By the financial forensic unit of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund
Some people think cybercrime attacks only happen to people who are tech savvy. The truth is, even the less technologically advanced people can fall victim to cybercrime attacks. If you make use of a smart device, laptop, desktop, tablet, or any other form of computer equipment which accesses e-mails, Internet, etc, you are potentially a victim to cybercrime. It therefore becomes important that as a business person you protect yourself and your firmfrom cyber-attacks. For some measures that practitioners may put in place to protect and ensure confidentiality of client information, Read more here.


Step-by-step guidelines: Default judgment
by Mohammed Moolla. Read more.

What trouble are other lawyers getting into? Do you know what your own colleagues and employees are doing?
By Ann Bertelsmann. Case notes dealing with misleading clients, misleading colleagues, ignorance of the law; lack of attention to detail and administrative errors; poor trial advocacy; and oversights. Read more.

Step-by-step guide to mediation in the magistrate’s court
by Caitlin Askew Read more.

Interest earned on trust current banking accounts: To be paid over monthly

by Andrew Stansfield and Robert Burawundi, Attorneys Fidelity Fund
With effect from 1 March 2016 it will become mandatory for practitioners to pay over interest earned on trust current banking accounts to the Attorneys Fidelity Fund (AFF), via the appropriate collecting law society, on a monthly basis. This amounts to a refinement on the present position whereby practitioners are obliged to pay over such interest annually. The authority for the change is contained in reg 8(1) to the Attorneys Act 53 of 1979 (the Act).
   The requirement to pay over interest monthly is applicable to all trust current banking accounts operated under s 78(1) of the Act. Interest generated on trust savings or other interest-bearing accounts under s 78(2)(a) of the Act may be paid over annually.
   Practitioners are advised to review their banking arrangements well in advance of the 1 March 2016 deadline and to take the necessary action to educate bookkeeping staff accordingly. Read more.

How important is practice management?
by Vincent Faris
The profit squeeze? How, given the current economic climate, can a law firm grow, and what role, if any, can or should practice management play? Read more.

The clock is ticking … Why do so many RAF claims become prescribed?
by Ann Bertelsmann, Attorneys Insurance Indemnity Fund
Why do 82,5% of all prescription claims arise from RAF matters and only 17,5% from more complicated general matters? What goes wrong? Oversights (the main culprit) and diary problems. Read more.

Find the problem before it finds you - Allowing events to destroy the vision you have of your firm can be managed and limited, but how?
by the Financial Forensic Investigation Team of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund
Ask the following questions:

  • Do you know and are you keeping watch of what can destroy your vision?
  • Do you know and are you conversant with challenges that may be posed by IT in your firm?
  • Do you keep abreast of developments in the industry?
  • Are you employing the right calibre of staff?
  • Are you compliant with the legislative and regulatory environment?
  • Have you identified your stakeholders whose expectations you need to fulfil?

Read more.

Who’s got your back? Minimising the risk of PI claims
by Ann Bertelsmann, Attorneys Insurance Indemnity Fund
It does not matter whether you are a candidate attorney, associate, single practitioner or a director in one of the larger law firms, you are always vulnerable to claims by your clients or third parties who are affected by errors or omissions that you might make in practice. What can you do to protect yourself or your practice against such claims and their sometimes devastating financial and reputational effects? There are two important, protective steps in minimising the risk of making mistakes. Read more.

Find the problem before it finds you - Allowing events to destroy the vision you have of your firm can be managed and limited, but how?

by the Financial Forensic Investigation Team of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund
Ask the following questions:

  • Do you know and are you keeping watch of what can destroy your vision?
  • Do you know and are you conversant with challenges that may be posed by IT in your firm?
  • Do you keep abreast of developments in the industry?
  • Are you employing the right calibre of staff?
  • Are you compliant with the legislative and regulatory environment?
  • Have you identified your stakeholders whose expectations you need to fulfil?

Read more.

Is your client a ticking bomb?
by Ann Bertelsmann, Attorneys Insurance Indemnity Fund
A happy, satisfied client will return and recommend you to others … But an unhappy or dissatisfied client is a potential plaintiff in a civil claim for breach of mandate, a complaint to your law society or at the very least, a fee dispute! Before taking on a potentially dissatisfied client, you need to be sure that this is a client that you will not later regret taking on. Read more.

Bridging finance pitfalls
by the Prosecution and Financial Forensic Investigation Team of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund
Law firms venture into bridging finance, especially for conveyancing matters. Why do attorneys use bridging finance in conveyancing matters? What can go wrong and how to manage the risk. Read more.

While the cat is away … Effective supervision
by Ann Bertelsmann, Attorneys Insurance Indemnity Fund
Effective supervision is not micro-managing staff; disempowering staff; or checking everything oneself. It should rather be based on a well-considered, well-coordinated supervision plan and policies; seen as a business process rather than a threat or criticism; flexible and vary depending on level of experience of the supervisee and the complexity of the work being done; and provide broad guidelines; appropriate training; regular reviews; constructive feedback; empowerment and motivation and effective delegation.  Read more.

Do you know whose money it was?
by the Financial Forensic Investigation Team of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund
Clients from time to time entrust their money and/or property to practitioners for future payments on their instructions to the practitioner/s. Practitioners are required by the Attorneys Act 53 of 1979 (the Act), the rules applicable to the various law societies and the new uniform rules to keep accounting records for monies that they are entrusted with. The new unform rules for the attorneys’ profession capture these requirements under r 35.5. Read more.
Read more about the new rules for the attorneys' profession which come into effect on 1 March 2016.

The value of mentoring candidate attorneys
by the Prosecutions and the Financial Forensic Units of the Attorneys Fidelity Fund
The future success of the legal fraternity lies on the good foundation that ensures that knowledge and practical experience is rightfully cascaded to candidate attorneys. While this knowledge and practical experience is cascaded, it should also ensure that the character of the candidate attorney is enhanced in the process. The production of highly competent and skilled candidate attorneys is a shared responsibility among various stakeholders in the legal profession. There are many ways that can be pursued to train and prepare candidate attorneys for the practice of law. Mentoring is one of the most critical and effective ways of preparing candidate attorneys for a tough and challenging legal industry. Read more.
Become a mentor or get a mentor.