How can legal departments add value to law firms during onboarding?
Getting your law firms on-boarded as efficiently and painlessly as possible is a key factor in the overall success of a legal eBilling project.
Although eBilling vendors now have considerable experience in supporting legal departments through the implementation, there is less emphasis placed on the problems and issues faced by law firms. While the technical aspects of the eBilling solution may be well documented, it is often the non-technical issues that cause law firms the biggest problems, and these are over looked.
These issues can include: How should the law firm be organised to implement eBilling – should it be a centralised function or not? What additional processes does the firm need to implement to ensure that billing data is accurate and timely? What additional resources and IT system changes will be needed to meet the requirements of eBilling?
While most law firms are able to overcome these major issues, either on their own or with some external consultancy, there are detailed aspects that can be unique to your project. When you start on-boarding, you can expect to receive a list of questions from your firm that cover these specific areas. These questions include:
- What is the scope of the implementation i.e. which law firm offices, which of your entities and what matter types are in scope?
- Will you be requiring UTBMS codes i.e which Task/Activity/Expense codes are mandatory?
- What are the recognised timekeeper classifications?
- Which LEDES file formats are accepted or how else can law firms submit billing data?
- Do you require Work In Progress (WIP) information to be submitted?
- Are there any special billing requirements and how should fixed fee work be billed?
- How will the firms be instructed on new matters?
- How are charging rates managed and validated?
- What are the payment processes for valid invoices?
- What validation rules apply e.g. what expenses will you reject and which timekeeper types cannot be charged?
It helps to be proactive and think about these questions from the start of the project. You will also need to provide a Billing Guidelines document containing rules and processes for the firms to follow. To help ensure the project addresses these questions and removes frustration for firms, we recommend a dedicated law firm success resource. BusyLamp provides this for every project in the form of Bryan King, who has over 15 years’ eBilling on-boarding experience, initially at Clifford Chance. This person, while indirectly also working for the legal department, assists all law firms with on-boarding, implementation, and provides a single liaison point between vendor, firms, and the legal department. Many law firms are familiar with eBilling now, but those less experienced firms welcome the opportunity to have the assistance of an individual who understands the issues often faced by the law firm.
These two quotes support how valuable this is for firms; the first one is from the eBilling Manager of a large international City firm, and the second from the Finance Director of a smaller regional UK firm.
“I have been involved with eBilling for around ten years at various major UK law firms. As it evolves the challenges are increasing. Clients often have dramatically different approaches and requirements. What is undoubtedly critical to the successful implementation of eBilling is an effective onboarding process. I firmly believe that BusyLamp appointing Bryan King as a lead was an excellent business decision. With his law firm insight and expertise he has been able to play a vital role of considerable value by assisting both the client and BusyLamp with law firm questions and confirming when those firms have raised pertinent questions or made observations of merit. This drives a more effective onboarding process which focusses on key areas of challenge which historically have been overlooked until post implementation, which typically manifest in a backlog of rejected eBills.”
“This is the first time that we have seen someone like Bryan working for an eBilling vendor. Usually the vendor sends us a letter about a client requiring eBilling and we are left to get on with it (… ) so useful having someone to answer our questions and who understands our concerns and issues”
So how can you help? Every eBilling implementation will benefit from a clear set of rules that document the working practices and expectations around the client billing function. Your eBilling vendor will advise you on what to include. Providing these clear rules will mean your firms will be ready and able to use the solution and provide successful eBilling.
Go above and beyond ‘help desk’ level support for your firms by appointing someone (or selecting a vendor who provides someone) who understands law firm issues and works collaboratively with them through their on-boarding process.
Work with your vendor to answer a list of questions in anticipation of receiving them from your firms, and be prepared to work with the law firm success manager to answer further queries as they arise.
Finally, eBilling offers great opportunities for you and your law firms to work collaboratively on a non-legal project and with a set of common goals. The aim should be to reduce billing errors, enhance the quality of billing information and improve decision-making processes. Implementing eBilling is also a chance to work more effectively and efficiently with your outside counsel in a win-win partnership.