Friday, February 12, 2010

The Power of UTBMS (Uniform Task Based Billing Codes)

In Response to the Rees Morrison's blog entry ("Drawbacks of Uniform Task Based Billing Codes for fees as used by legal departments") Bill Sowinski, the head of Decision Support Services for CT TyMetrix notes:

"While [Mr. Morrison] makes some good points about the challenges regarding UTBMS codes, I wouldn't throw the baby out with the bath water. The codes are a powerful tool for analyzing patterns and comparing performance. Over the years I’ve had the benefit of working with a number of clients who have captured their firm’s activity at the UTBMS code level. Through this detail, together with clients, we’ve been able to conduct analysis and generate reports that routinely result in a collective “WOW!”

UTBMS information is, of course, useful to compare how law firms deploy their resources for work on similar phases of like matters (e.g. percent of partner, associate, paralegal time and fees) but also reveals the average and median rates, both blended and by individual as well as by level of resource for that legal work. Examining activity at this level across firms invariably results in the revelation of diverse practices with the best and worst practices being immediately apparent. When addressing such issues with firms, the client has the data and the data is based upon that firm’s actual invoice entries. (We counsel our clients to identify precise billing entries for precise timekeepers and share it with law firms.)

The information is also useful for examining billing on diverse matters as the UTBMS information can be used to compare the performance of multiple firms working on the same matter as well as compare individuals within the same firm working on the same matter.

We provide three UTBMS standard reports to all of our clients. Those reports can analyze information across a year’s worth of data for one or one hundred firms in seconds. Those reports can analyze rates, resource level use and individual lawyer tendencies at the click of a mouse. Today’s Business Intelligence applications are making this information widely available and we strongly suggest the information be strategically used not just by legal departments, but by law firms as well.

It is true that the more careful firms are in coding their time the better the analyses, but our clients routinely stress the importance of coding properly and address any coding issues with the law firms. We’ve not experienced significant coding problems and we have tens of thousands of firms that submit invoices through CT TyMetrix. If you are interested, I would be more than happy to show you the reports and analysis available through the use of UTBMS."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Knowledge and people will meet at the corner of workflow and data

Check out this terrific interview of David Curle by Paul Lippe in the Huffington Post ("Will Knowledge & People Converge?") .  David is one of the top analysts at Outsell, a firm that covers the legal and professional information services industry.  Paul is the founder of Legal OnRamp.

This interview is a great example of why David is one of the most respected analysts in this space. Whether or not he is prescient, he certainly has his finger on the pulse of the current state.
In particular, I agree with David's first prediction. He says, "One macro trend worth watching is that in the business world, legal decision-making is moving upstream. By that I mean that corporate counsel are thinking twice about turning so much work over to the firms; they are using technology and collaboration to manage more legal work in-house. Companies are also using technology to embed more legal knowledge into the business workflow, so that legal decision points are resolved on the spot."

I couldn't agree with this more. In fact, the first trend that I noted in my recent piece, "Key Legal Industry Trends for 2010" is "The Rise of the Corporate Law Department." In it, I note that the "The down economy has shifted the balance of power from large law firms to corporate legal departments. In 2010, corporate law departments will assert more control over [their operations]. There will be a heightened demand for "tools of empowerment" that provide them with the knowledge, transparency and real-time technology to take control."
Interestingly, I believe that the embedding of "legal knowledge" (read: content) into lawyer's workflows is just part of the story. In addition to traditional "lawyer as knowledge worker" paradigm, I believe that that we, as an industry, are on the cusp of a brand new legal service delivery model: the data-driven lawyer. Having processed tens of billions of legal invoices over the last decade (each of which contains specific task and activity codes), I believe that the corporate lawyer's workflows will be informed by the empirical data derived from the these invoices and other objective data sources. These data will enable smarter decisions around case management, budgets, vendor sourcing, staffing profiles, time lines, and matter strategies. This approach, which is old hat to many other areas of the corporation, will improve stakeholder ROI and build better, more authentic partnerships between corporations and their law firms. Moreover, since the SaaS model has now been fully accepted by the legal profession, it is easy to imagine a platform that embeds this intelligence across the entire legal service delivery chain.