As Product Manager for Collaborati—the portal law firms use to electronically submit invoices to clients who use Mitratech’s e-Billing solutions—law firms often tell me how challenging it is to keep track of their clients’ unique billing requirements. At the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) conference earlier this month, a recurring theme was the need for standardization of processes governing the relationships between law firms and clients.
A recent initiative by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) addresses both of these issues head on. Earlier this summer, seven CLOC members, all of whom are the head of legal operations at leading U.S. legal departments, as well as attorneys, came together to review billing guidelines and collaboratively created a best-in-class billing guideline document. CLOC has made the guidelines available on their website for downloading. Corporate legal departments who choose to better align themselves with their law firms can access these guidelines, and even modify them to meet their specific needs.
The written guidelines cover several areas including timing of invoice submission, preference for alternative fee arrangements, the need for budgets and accruals, and staffing guidelines. In formulating the standard billing guidelines document, CLOC members sought to create fairness for both corporate legal departments and law firms.
The adoption of standing billing guidelines will represent a win-win for law firms and their clients. As more clients use this standardized document, the Herculean effort law firms currently undertake to track each of their clients’ unique requirements becomes less arduous.
For clients, standardization allows them to leverage the combined expertise and experience of legal operations officers who have been working with billing requirements for years. Wider acceptance of these new guidelines will also allow law firms to modify their processes and grow more efficient. For example, the standard guidelines suggest a discount on invoices that are received later than a specified period from when the law firm performed the work. Law firms then have the incentive to ensure timely invoicing, which, in turn, helps clients more accurately forecast legal expenditures.
The billing guidelines document represents only the beginning of the best-in-class guidelines crusade that CLOC has begun. The CLOC website lists several other projects which they plan to undertake, including a firm engagement letter and a policy on the use of electronic signatures within the business.
How does your legal department plan to take advantage of the best-in-class documents offered by CLOC?