Mature corporate law departments use e-billing technology to manage outside counsel spend and get good results. However, e-billing can't do everything. In a previous contribution to CCBJ, Nathan Cemenska discussed other solutions that help meet these challenges. Here, he talks about what form that help can take.
Law departments with a focus on improving and maintaining performance are now increasingly implementing broader cost management programs, of which e-billing is but one component. This more holistic approach represents a different way of thinking about spend management and addresses the pain points legal teams face by combining the best characteristics of e-billing and other solutions and services. It’s about taking greater control of legal spend and seizing every opportunity to capture savings. This is possible when law departments leverage the right suite of tools to reduce inefficiencies and spending leakage.
Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions has developed a program of total spend management to help legal professionals get the visibility and control they need to optimize their legal spend and reduce spend leakage. The total spend management offerings include a strong e-billing foundation and leverage advanced technology to cover key areas legal professionals should consider when they seek to improve their spend management operations:
AI-enabled bill review. Legal bill review is critical to legal department management, but bill reviewers often don’t have time to scrutinize every line of the long, complex invoices they receive. Artificial intelligence is well-suited to help because it has the capacity to review line items far more quickly than human reviewers. AI finds patterns within invoices and flags likely violations for billing guideline compliance while increasing cost savings. When combined with expert, third-party bill reviewers, it can ensure the highest quality review while freeing in-house attorneys to focus on the practice of law.
With billing guidelines increasing in complexity, this approach is a valuable supplement to e-billing. For customers using AI-enabled bill review, ELM Solutions has seen improvement of up to 20 percent in billing guideline compliance and additional cost savings up to 15 percent.
AI-enabled invoice conversion (parsing). When law departments receive paper or PDF invoices that do not go through the e-billing system – usually from law firms they work with only occasionally – the data in those invoices is either lost or must be entered manually by department staff. An AI-assisted service can convert those bills into the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard (LEDES) format for inclusion in the e-billing system. This reduces time and money associated with manual invoice entry while offering complete visibility and transparency into all spend.
Detailed data and analytics. Good business decisions are based on good data. The legal spend information captured by e-billing systems is only as valuable as the reporting it is used for. High performing law departments leverage business intelligence tools to create and distribute targeted reports and dashboards that deliver comprehensive insights to the right law department and executive audiences.
Internal spend data should be compared to industry benchmarks to ensure that measures such as timekeeper rates are not only trending in the right direction, but are also comparable to market averages. The ELM Solutions LegalVIEW® benchmark database, for example, features more than $128 billion in legal spend data from across the industry to provide comprehensive insight that supports better sourcing decisions, panel selection and spend management.
Fully integrated e-billing and Microsoft Office applications. In-house attorneys and legal operations professionals typically have to access several separate solutions to get the files, data and functions they need. Information they need is sometimes stored in an enterprise legal management (ELM) system, sometimes in a file-sharing solution or even managed in email chains. For many, typical workflows involve viewing invoices in an ELM platform, accessing documents on a file server and emailing about the contents of both in Microsoft Outlook. These inefficiencies can be frustrating.
ELM tools that streamline these processes by integrating with Microsoft Office allow users to seamlessly access and manage their invoices and other legal workflows without leaving Microsoft Office. Saving the time and energy of switching between tools means that users can work and access information where they are most comfortable, decreasing frustration and wasted time, and increasing departmental efficiency.
As the corporate legal landscape continues to evolve, legal professionals are consistently pushed to find innovative ways to make their operations and spend management more efficient – all while improving outcomes. ELM Solutions’ total spend management helps law departments meet those needs by providing visibility and insight into all aspects of legal spend. This suite of spend management tools delivers a complete view into the entirety of legal expenditures and the impacts they have on legal results. To learn more visit the ELM Solutions website.
Published May 15, 2019.