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E-billing has come of age!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

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, September 12, 2016

Beyond the silo, where next for the legal sector?

Beyond the silo, where next for the legal sector?

by Tim Long, Managing Director, Zylpha Ltd.


With law firms seeking to boost profits and meet ever increasing client demands, there is a growing trend for legal IT departments to develop and implement greater efficiency gains, the rise in document management systems such as iManage being one.

From speaking with our clients and prospects the message is clear: Evolve now or become irrelevant.

Here are just some of the solutions that Zylpha clients have begun to implement.

Innovation is not the answer if it’s kept in a silo.

Before we begin, let’s take a minute to remember that the primary focus of innovation should be on the client. Practices are in the people business as it is the clients that pay the bills. Yet, in reality, too much is made of those technology solutions that do not improve a practice’s relationship with its clients. In their quest to differentiate themselves from their competitors, some practices have started to use any recently made innovation they can point a finger at as a useful enticement for customers to buy their services.

Our biggest problem with this kind of innovation is that we are constantly and inexorably searching for more technology advancement irrespective of its impact on client service. All this leaves us with is a series of expensive solutions that, all too often, have not been utilised across the entire organisation. A carefully deployed document management system is worth far more than a handful of poorly executed single department specific innovations.

The office is no longer important.

From our report The Legal Landscape there is a growing trend to move to agile ways of working to enable them to work at client sites, work from remote locations at times to suit clients and also to optimise fee-earners’ downtime when travelling or out of the office.

Having access to your emails is the de facto standard rather than the exception. However, this is not enough anymore and we have noticed a trend in firms beginning to choose IT solutions which enable legal professionals to have access to their document management system and their key files whilst out of the office.

Increased digitisation and the growth of online services.

Firms will expect to see further improvements in processes and accessibility to their document management files with more systems becoming electronic and digital in 2016. Once again client expectations will drive this efficiency as they demand access to services outside of regular working hours. This is the norm outside of the legal sector.

Overall, the clients of law firms too are now using the internet and digital services more fully and on a daily basis, so many now expect the same level of interactivity form their legal advisors.

Legal IT delivers ROI

In the past, the IT department has been seen as the purchaser of services to help fix a problem.

However, we have seen a trend that new ICT solutions must now bring benefits to the business as a whole which delivers a more streamlined and speedier process; but without reducing the quality of the service delivered. Put simply, the technology has to evolve with the demands of the client. It is no longer enough to just implement a document management system and think the project is completed – now is the time to drive additional ROI leveraging integrations between both existing document management systems and new solutions.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

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

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.