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 firstname.lastname@example.org for a, no obligation demonstration of the BusyLamp web-based enterprise legal management solution.