Peer to Peer Magazine

June 2012

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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Page 122 of 135

UTBMS: Beyond Cost Metrics by Cathrine J. Collins of Bridgeway Software, Inc. Professional legal services have long been considered "credence services," meaning we take them at face value and trust that the provider is working in our best interests to obtain a favorable outcome in the most efficient and cost-effective manner possible. With the introduction of Uniform Task-Based Management System (UTBMS) billing codes, we have gained the ability to establish metrics that evaluate and compare those legal (credence) services among the various law firms we've engaged, as well as benchmark our departments and the services we provide against our industry peers. The secret ingredient in this billing system is transparency. It is transparency that gives us the ability to evaluate legal services beyond a gut feeling, compare apples-to-apples and determine, on an empirical basis, our real satisfaction or trust level with our legal services providers. More important, as legal service processes become more transparent, we are able to move beyond simple cost metrics and include satisfaction and trust metrics in our evaluations. Before the Birth of UTBMS The creation of the UTBMS codes was prompted largely by distrust due to overbilling practices. Up until the adoption of the UTBMS codes, legal services were rendered and bills for these services included narrative descriptions of the work performed. Firms often employed terminology unfamiliar to anyone outside the particular practice area. As a result, organizations and individuals engaged law firms and other legal professionals based on familiarity, friendship, and family or business connections; in other words, you employed people you knew or felt you could trust based on first-hand knowledge, reference or reputation. Unless the services performed fell within your area of expertise, you had no other way to evaluate a law firm with any certainty. Of course, the other problem with legal service billing was the fact that it was all paper-based, making it next to impossible to evaluate on any consistent basis. It was not uncommon for law departments to receive legal bills three to five inches thick, comprising hundreds of pages. These covered multiple matters of various types over varying periods of time and itemized fees and expenses related to the work of multiple employees. It could take weeks to analyze a single bill, and then days later, another thick bill would arrive and the evaluation process would start over again. It took a legal scandal to bring about a change in technology and standard billing practices; specifically, fraud perpetrated in the insurance industry by an industrious California plaintiff attorney. This attorney took advantage of a recently enacted regulation and conspired with other attorneys and citizens to charge exorbitant legal fees through fraudulent discovery practices. The fraud was found out only when an equally industrious claims adjuster noticed that, in spite of meticulous review of legal bills, all the claims in his area far exceeded the cost of claims in other areas of California. The 124 Peer to Peer

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