by Nathan Cemenska, Wolters Kluwer's ELM Solutions
As billing guidelines get more complex and in-house counsel are crushed with mounting workloads, your law department may need more than e-billing to uncover non-compliance.
E-billing helps law departments manage invoices, track operational and financial performance, and handle related information such as budgets, accruals, timekeeper rates and value-based fee arrangements. These are key foundational elements to a modern legal operations department.
However, there are some common challenges in legal operations that e-billing doesn’t address, like increasingly complex billing guidelines coupled with the ever-increasing workloads of in-house attorneys.
There was a time when billing guidelines were rarely used. Then a few simple guidelines became common. Now, billing guidelines are widely used, and are nuanced and varied across different organizations. With more complexity and a broader range of clauses, guidelines are more challenging for law firms to understand and comply with. On the in-house side, they are more difficult to track, manage and enforce.
In a 2017 survey conducted by Gartner and Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions, three out of four organizations reported that they either have guidelines in place or are developing them. However, only 6% of respondents said that their guidelines are crafted in a way that makes auditing invoices very easy. The satisfaction rate with billing guidelines is low – at only 31% – and not a single respondent said they were completely satisfied. Billing guidelines clearly aren’t as effective as law departments would like them to be.
Why is dissatisfaction so common when it comes to guidelines? It’s in part a result of trying to leverage tools for more complicated tasks than they were originally designed for. E-billing systems manage billing guidelines by being the first line of defense for identifying violations – and they do the job well with straightforward issues. But the intricacy of some modern guidelines means that e-billing can’t always capture every instance of non-compliance.