Understanding LAA’s Audit and Billing Process
As a publicly funded organization that is accountable to Albertans, LAA embraces the values of accountability and transparency. One aspect of accountability is ensuring that we’re good stewards of public money. LAA also needs to protect the interests of our vulnerable clients. As you know, our clients are required to repay LAA for the legal services provided by roster lawyers. To protect both the public and our clients, LAA needs to ensure that roster lawyer accounts comply with the Tariff and our other billing rules.
LAA operates on an honor-based system. In general, we don’t ask roster lawyers for detailed timesheets or receipts before we pay the account. But sometimes we’ll go back and take a closer look at certificates or invoices after we’ve paid, as part of a compliance review (audit).
Some invoices are reviewed because a client has complained, or because we’ve identified an unusual charge or disbursement. In other cases, we’ll randomly select some roster lawyers or certificates for a closer look.
As a proportion of the many thousands of certificates we issue every year, we don’t audit many files. But when we do, we need your cooperation by providing us with the supporting records we request.
Important Things to Remember about Billing and Audits
LAA has longstanding principles and practices surrounding invoices and audits:
- We can audit your accounts up to three years after you’ve submitted your final invoice. As a result, we need you to keep supporting records, documents, and receipts for at least four years after you’ve final-billed an account.
- You need to keep time records whenever you bill LAA for an hourly Tariff item. LAA may ask you to provide this timesheet either before or after we pay your account. Your timesheet should be just as detailed as any timesheet you’d keep for a private client.
- If LAA approves “extra hours” beyond what is allowed by the Tariff, this doesn’t mean you are automatically entitled to bill LAA for the full hours we’ve approved. You still need to keep a timesheet documenting your actual time spent working on the file, and you need to send us that timesheet upon request.
- In some cases, our policies allow you to delegate work to another lawyer. If you delegate work, you need to make sure that lawyer keeps the same records you’re required to maintain.
- When the Tariff indicates a disbursement can be billed at “actual cost,” the Tariff means exactly what it says: you can bill your actual, out-of-pocket costs attributable specifically to that certificate matter. You can’t spread your general office expenses between many different clients by dividing an overhead expense between certificates as a disbursement. We might ask you for receipts to prove your disbursements, so hang on to them.
- You need to respond to our requests for supporting records. We appreciate the many demands on your time – and we’re often flexible if you need an extension – but non-responsiveness is unacceptable. If you don’t respond to our requests for records within a reasonable time, LAA will stop issuing you certificates until we’re satisfied that we’ve received the records we need for the audit.
- If we identify an irregularity, or if you can’t provide records to justify your billing or disbursements, LAA has different options. We might disallow some of your billings and set off any overpayments against your future billings. In some cases, we might suspend or remove you from the roster.
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Page last updated: November 19, 2021