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Sometimes traditional methods are the best.

Take assessing legal billing for example. You might think that the advent of e-billing would minimise problems and make reducing costs simple – but in many cases, a manual bill review offers more effective results from day one. Let us explain.

Corporates and government departments often simply accept year on year increases of external counsel spend in spite of mounting pressure on their budgets – all because they’re unable to assess whether or not they’re getting value for money.

We’re committed to helping legal departments get increased value from their external counsel relationships, by pioneering innovative legal auditing and review techniques together with introducing billing guidelines for law firms. And our reasonable approach to doing this has gained us great respect among the law firms whose bills we audit.

E-billing, or electronic invoicing – commonly used in the US, but relatively new in Europe – automates this process. It produces a legal bill and VAT invoice from the law firm’s time and billing system using standard Uniform Task Based Management System (UTBMS) codes to define the work and expenses incurred. After various validations, this e-bill is eventually uploaded to the client’s systems, where it’s authorised and paid. After which, the client’s legal team can use specialist software to analyse the billing data and compare it with other firms’ e-bills.

That’s all very well in theory but often a turnkey review service is more appropriate.
The service can be deployed either as a stand alone or in conjunction with a legal e-billing strategy.
It can be applied tactically to specific matters such as a large value engagement, or to specific work streams, even to a specific law firm on the panel. Strategically it can also be implemented across all external legal engagements.
At a tactical level, a manual bill review can have several advantages.

For example, it can easily identify high billing firms. It can help evaluate competing law firms with a view to retention. And through discussions, it can help improve billing practices and lead to discounted rates.

More specifically, a manual review can highlight issues such as:

• Failing to comply with client billing rules/guidelines
• Exceeding estimate or budget without authorisation
• Billing for excess time and inappropriate rounding up of time
• Excessive time on a task or high minimum time charges
• Duplicate time charges and the billing of disallowed expenses
• Over-staffing and insufficient delegation – for example, work done by over-qualified fee earners, or unnecessary supervision and file reviews
• Poor billing procedures such as excessive bundling of tasks
• Vague and meaningless invoice narrative, e.g. ‘document review’

In essence, the manual bill review process produces a snapshot of billing practices and ensures compliance with billing guidelines. It identifies inefficient and incorrect billing habits, so recommendations can be made to improve external solicitors’ performance.

It’s easy to adopt and quick to implement too, with no long term commitment needed, offering useful results instantly. E-billing, on the other hand, can take time and great expense to become fully operational, as law firms have different IT capabilities and software.

Perhaps ironically though, a manual review can also help justify the implementation of e-billing, by enriching the cost / benefit debate.

A tactical alternative to e-billing? Or a precursor to implementing a comprehensive e-billing strategy? However you use it, a manual bill review process can prove invaluable.

 

 

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