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E-billing – There is Something Here for You, Law Firms

Thursday, January 5, 2017

E-billing – There is Something Here for You, Law Firms

Guest Blog by Bryan King, Independent E-billing Consultant

The benefits of e-billing to corporate legal departments is relatively well understood today, but there is still some convincing required among law firms of its advantages. Typically, the deployment of e-billing in law firms is driven by corporate clients and so the underlying sentiment of "what's in it for me?" is often palpable. The reality is that law firms have much to gain too – both from an internal perspective and an external relationship standpoint.

Direct benefits

The obvious tangible benefits of e-billing are that, law firms get their invoices paid more quickly, due to faster authorisation and payment processes at the client end. Also, law firm bills are validated and checked for compliance with the corporate legal departments’ billing guidelines by the e-billing solution provider ‘before’ they are submitted to the client, so normally there are fewer disputes over payments. Additionally, with some corporate legal departments adopting legal spend management solutions, that go beyond the stereotypical e-billing solutions, clients are able to view the time and expenses recorded by law firms much earlier in the process and so have the ability to query the law firm's potential charges well before they are billed. This ensures less "surprises" and reasons for clients to hold back payments.

Finance managers have access to data that can be analysed via the Uniform Task-Based Management System (UTBMS) codes to record matter phases, tasks and activities, for example to compare the performance of departments and offices. Such insight is usually not easily available to the finance and accounts departments in law firms.

Strengthening client relationships

By embracing e-billing, firms can strengthen their working relationship with clients, help them earn goodwill, which in turn can bring new opportunities. For instance, through legal spend management tools, law firms can provide clients visibility of things like written-off /unbilled time and non-chargeable work undertaken. They can also categorise billed time by the client’s own work breakdown/cost codes and improve the value of the information in the e-bill.

Law firms can leverage e-billing as a marketing tool. Prospects now expect law firms to be knowledgeable about e-billing. Firms that are able to advise on e-billing issues and even on how billing data can be tailored to best meet the client’s needs, are attractive to legal departments.

The approach facilitates initiation of fresh dialogue with clients regarding the pricing of legal work and the use of flexible cost models. E-billing allows work to be broken down and measured in different ways, with transparency. Also, analysis of historical pricing data from the e-billing solution is a great way to determine and agree alternative fee arrangements that are a win-win for both parties.

Many of the newer legal spend management solutions offer very sophisticated metrics and management information reporting capabilities that benefit the law firms as well as corporate legal departments.

There is business merit in adopting e-billing and legal spend management solutions for law firms. The insight and transparency offered by such solutions, in reality is of equal commercial value to both parties.

About Bryan King

Bryan King is an independent consultant, advising law firms and in-house legal departments on e-billing issues; and assisting with the successful implementation of legal spend management projects. Prior to this, he has senior IT management positions at Linklaters, Lovells and Clifford Chance. At Clifford Chance, he also held global responsibility for the firm’s electronic invoicing (e-billing) projects.

If you are interested in finding out more about how the new breed of legal spend management and e-billing tools mentioned in Bryan’s article can help your legal department save time, significantly reduce overhead and collaborate more effectively with inside and outside counsel, please email contactus@ascertus.com for a, no obligation demonstration of the BusyLamp web-based enterprise legal management solution.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

E-billing has come of age!

Guest Blog by Bryan King, Independent E-billing Consultant

Typically, e-billing systems leverage project management principles to provide visibility to clients on exactly where and how their law firms spent time and budgets on legal matters. These solutions utilise the Uniform Task-Based Management System (UTBMS), which is a set of codes that help breakdown legal work and expenses across a timeline of activity to a fine level of detail. For every matter, the client receives an itemised bill with full transparency of the fee earners who worked on the account, what tasks (e.g. a witness statement) and activities (e.g. drafting a letter) they undertook and such. Once the e-bill is generated, all the information is validated by the e-billing solution vendor based on the client guidelines provided before it is passed on to the client.

The benefits of this approach are many. A corporate could easily contrast and compare the cost and efficiency with which different law firms execute similar matters. Such insight allows corporates intelligent and well-informed conversations at times of law firm reviews and re-negotiations. All of this cumulatively enables the corporate legal department and law firm alike to become smarter in the way they execute matters.

This of course is the traditional approach, where the focus is very much on analysis ‘after’ the e-invoice has been submitted to the legal department. With the ever-growing budgetary pressures that corporate legal departments face today, the more sophisticated e-billing solutions providers have gone well beyond mere electronic invoicing to offering legal spend management functionality. For example, to eliminate surprises and ensure quicker payments, law firms can send matter-related fees and expenses at regular intervals across various stages of the legal case so that the client is able to see how the budget is being utilised as the assignment progresses. If for any reason, say 70 percent of the allocated budget is used up half way through the project, an automatic alert to the client, facilitates timely assessment to ascertain the reasons for the potential over-spend and a corrective plan of action, as may be necessary.

Similarly, the modern e-billing tools offer a huge amount of sophisticated reporting and metrics to enable in-house legal departments and law firms to look at matters by type, fee earner and partner involvement, and such. This kind of analysis is also a good way of assessing the level and quality of relationship between the two parties.

E-billing solutions have truly come of age today. As legal spend management solutions, they offer end-to-end functionality – everything from initiating an RFP, supporting the matter management process through to metrics and KPI-based analysis and of course electronic billing.

Most crucially, these tools are now hassle-free to deploy and immensely affordable as many are cloud-based. Minimal IT involvement is required, the total cost of ownership is low and the return on investment high. Consequently, IT departments have little to object to, which historically has often been the bone of contention between IT and the legal department. IT departments in corporates are focused on delivering systems and solutions that are core to the business of the organisation. Hence legal departments have long struggled to get the technology systems they need. But now with other core legal applications like document management also available as cloud-based solutions, legal departments are in a good position to deploy and leverage integrated e-billing/legal spend management/matter management and document management solutions.

It is only a matter of time that this approach becomes the norm in the legal sector.

About Bryan King

Bryan King is an independent consultant, advising law firms and in-house legal departments on e-billing issues; and assisting with the successful implementation of legal spend management projects. Prior to this, he has senior IT management positions at Linklaters, Lovells and Clifford Chance. At Clifford Chance, he also held global responsibility for the firm’s electronic invoicing (e-billing) projects.

If you are interested in finding out more about how the new breed of legal spend management and e-billing tools mentioned in Bryan’s article can help your legal department save time, significantly reduce overhead and collaborate more effectively with inside and outside counsel, please email contactus@ascertus.com for a, no obligation demonstration of the BusyLamp web-based enterprise legal management solution.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lawyers Must Recognise the Value of their Data and Take Security Precautions

Lawyers Must Recognise the Value of their Data and Take Security Precautions

- Guest Blog by Richard De Vere, Principal Consultant, The AntiSocial Engineer Limited

Whilst content in our 9 – 5 employment, slightly resentful that our personal activities aren’t getting the attention they deserve, it’s easy to forget about the true value of things around us – especially their inherent value to other walks of life. Similar to a life of slavery in ‘The Matrix’ we start to just see the ones and zeros, contracts, pdf’s, ledgers and scribbled notes.

It’s hard to imagine a criminal world where there are no regular pay cheques, no need to wear a suit, people making up the rules as they go along, no Christmas parties, no AGMs and so forth. It’s all just so alien to our mindset in business that we feel we have no reason to focus on these carefree, parasitic lifestyles. But we should, or else, our ignorance could be our downfall.

Hackers, cyber-criminals, fraudsters or whatever they get labelled, are just people in search of a slightly better-off life. Based on all the crooks I’ve met, the thing nearly all of them have in common is a blunt ‘laziness’.

I’m reminded of the following quote by Bill Gates: “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

This quote sums up perfectly why a criminal would rather target your law firm. Criminals after credit card data, target hotels – i.e. the aggregators of these details. Criminals after sensitive data for extortion or of victims regularly transferring large sums of money, target law firms. These hubs of commerce are fast becoming centres of illegal industry and are big targets.

It’s about time that law firms analysed the security risks and firmly instituted preventions. By this I don’t mean a new device or an extra padlock on the filing cupboard! It’s time to embed a real security culture and put into motion implementations.

This said, it’s not all doom and gloom. The best defence is knowing where the security risks in the organisation are, and being aware of the tricks of the ‘criminal’ trade and the variety of ways in which they will target you, ‘the individual’, so that the necessary measures can be taken. Let’s take a look:

Phishing Attacks

  • Phishing - This is the number one attack vector. It poses little risk to criminals and is relatively easy. Be wary of all attachments and never allow them to enable macros - ever!

  • Spear phishing - If the phishing doesn’t go too well for the criminals, next in line will be ‘spear phishing’ – i.e. targeted emails that are tailored to your typical areas of interest. They might guide you to login pages designed to harvest your credentials or might simply deliver malware, ransomware or a whole host of other nasty attacks on your computer.

  • Whaling - These emails target the ‘whales’ – i.e. the CEOs, the finance heads, CFOs and such. They are designed to blend straight in and are sophisticated attempts to go for the big wins. Often impersonating a company head, criminals will ask for payments to be made to bank accounts. Watch out for emails from your children’s school, rushed requests for money, emails from people who are on holiday and so on.

  • These emails are hard to spot, so as a rule, NEVER make a bank transfer based on an email request.

    Physical Access

  • Physical breaches are often disguised as robberies, but some criminals break in to steal computers containing data. Be sure all your law firm’s devices have full disk encryption.

  • Social engineering attacks come in many forms – the individual might appear as a potential client booking a meeting, but in reality, may be more interested in knowing the company WiFi password and location of cabinets in the firm, rather than contracting the organisation.

  • Phone Attacks

  • We all like to be helpful on the phone, but be on guard always! You are better off making your client jump through a few hoops to validate their identity as opposed to discussing their case with anyone who cares to call and enquire.

  • Be aware of text messages, especially the ones claiming to be from your bank or client. Text messages can easily be spoofed and should not be trusted. Instead agree a safe method of communication such as a messenger that validates the recipient and sender share ‘keys’ which can confirm it is indeed the correct device. Wickr Messenger, Signal or even WhatsApp have many security benefits over SMS.

  • Documents, data and processes that are considered routine by lawyers are often extremely valuable to cyber criminals. Firms must be acutely mindful of this and indeed the fact that criminals are adept at deception and manipulation to successfully gain the data for their own financial gain. A well-rounded awareness of breach methods and approach to security is essential.

    About Richard De Vere

    Richard De Vere (@AntiSocial_Eng) is the Principal Consultant for The AntiSocial Engineer Limited, he has an extensive background in penetration testing and social engineering assessments, including ‘red team', ‘phishing’ and ‘smshing’ exercises, and information gathering assessments for financial institutions and some of the UK’s largest companies.