Author: Jane A. Bennitt

Sky Analytics Acquired

It was announced today that Sky Analytics has been acquired by Huron Consulting Group.  Sky’s business analytics platform is added to Huron’s legal products and services portfolio that includes eDiscovery and contract management solutions.

This is a very good move for Sky.  By remaining product agnostic, the acquisition keeps open a much larger potential marketplace than if Sky had gone to one of the matter management/ebilling solution vendors.

See You At Legal Tech!

GLE founder Jane Bennitt will attend Legal Tech in February.

On Tuesday 3 Feb Jane will speak at an ILTA-track session with current LEDES Oversight Committee President Cathi Collins.  The session will be an open forum where the audience is encouraged to speak about what is right or wrong with ebilling today.  Our intent is to frankly discuss ebilling, see if there are projects that should be undertaken by the LOC, and to set priorities.  The session will be held at 12:30 in the Mercury Ballroom.

The LOC annual members meeting is on Wednesday 4 Feb and is open to the general public, not just LOC members.

Other than these commitments, we are setting up meetings during the show.  As a rule, Legal Tech meetings are free, so take advantage of this opportunity to talk with GLE about your issues, concerns and needs.  See you there!

Twenty Years In – Reflections on Ebilling

My 20th anniversary in ebilling has come and gone and I think it worthwhile to reflect back on the industry.

In 1994 law firms didn’t use Windows.  Heck, some legal finance people didn’t use a mouse until after 2000!  TyMetrix’s founder believed there had to be a way for law departments to understand their legal spend.  We worked on the prototype system and held back until the ABA/ACCA UTBMS Codes were released.  We installed the system at the first 13 firms before the end of 1995. I spent most of 1996 on the road and by May more than 220 firms had been on-boarded.  We quickly learned that law firms would not provide electronic billing data unless it was tied to payment of their invoices so, after some redesign, we began receiving invoices in August of 1996 electronically using the model still used today for ebilling.

Once the LEDES 98B format was released, it was amazing to see so many new system offerings.   We were the only company operating with a business model that required professionals from within the client company to review invoices.  And how fortunate for us.  As State Bar Associations issued ethics opinions about breach of confidentiality when invoices are released to third parties for review (intended to crush legal ebilling altogether), our business model ensured no breach of confidentiality would occur.

On the client side, streamlining the receipt, review and payment of invoices within the system made for a much more efficient process.  While some matter information was necessary to administer ebilling, by adding more fulsome matter management functionality there would be far greater ability to manipulate the paid billing data, especially if we included information on how a matter was resolved.  System functionality absolutely exploded with the addition of budgeting, case planning, timekeeper and rate management, scorecarding, accruals, global features, etc.  It was dizzying expanding in so many directions in so short a period.

I can wax nostalgic about this period because there were many visionaries working on solutions.  Really, there were a lot of smart people involved.  Many of the ebilling third-party vendor solutions have been sold, and the new owners focus on retaining clients and increasing market-share.  Today I see many caretakers, not innovators.  Except for adding BI and cross-industry metrics, not much has changed with these systems in the past decade.  And much of the functionality provided for law firms is shameful.

In the past few years there have been a couple new takes on ebilling:  project management with ebilling features (like OnIt or AlignMatters), or Viewabill’s real-time connection to WIP.  But mainstream legal ebilling exists much the same as it did in 2000.

It’s time to throw out the ebilling playbook and reenvision the industry.  If this is on your roadmap, I would be thrilled to help.

Did You See It? Wow!

I am so impressed by the information provided in Sky Analytics’ newly-released Gender Study.  They evaluated $3.4 billion of ebills from 3,000 firms across the US and  looked at gender as it impacts billing rates, law firm roles, work assignments, write-offs, etc.  Instead of restating their findings, read the report yourself and you also will be wowed.

I for one am hoping to see more quality analytics like this available for public consumption.  Hats off to Dr. Sylvia Hodges Silverstein and the rest of the team at Sky.

Notes from the Analytics Conference

Yesterday I attended the Business Intelligence and Analytics in the Legal Profession conference sponsored by Ark Group by invitation from Chris Bullock at Sky Analytics.  What a great conference!  Here are some take-aways from the various speakers from an ebilling perspective.

  • Law firms are employing BI with respect to profitability, leveraging and write-downs to better evaluate the “value” of client relationships and to better position themselves when negotiating alternate fees.
  • During annual client meetings when past services are reviewed and future services are negotiated, it was recommended that firms bring their metrics.  Many clients do not have this kind of information and appreciate anything firms can supply.  It can also be helpful to refute any client metrics that portray the law firm in an unflattering light or to illustrate a problematic fee structure.
  • There are new Legal Project Management (“LPM”) tools available that also manage legal fees.  I wonder, will the predictability of the fee, alignment between time recorded and realization, and ease of bill submission in these LPM tools lead to the next generation of ebilling?

Some great quotes:

Chris Potter – “It used to be the sooner you broadcast bad news the better.  Now we don’t want to broadcast bad news at all.  We need tools to identify when a situation starts to go bad so we can deal with it before it escalates.”

Christopher Sweet – “Measure.  Monitor.  Manage.  Then meet regularly.”

Chris Potter – “We need to deliver business intelligence that is digestible and actionable to inside counsel.”

More on the Datacert Acquisition by WK

It was reported today that TyMetrix and Datacert are merging. In the press release, Richard Flynn from Wolters Kluwer Corporate Legal Services said, “We will continue to support and invest in the TyMetrix and Datacert product lines while offering the highest levels of service and support our clients have come to expect.” Elsewhere in the press release Jim Tallman, President of Datacert, references “this new combined business.” We can only wait to see what the future holds for these two products.

Inspirational Thoughts from Rudy

I went to hear Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger speak last weekend. If you have ever seen the movie Rudy (a favorite), his story will be familiar. This is his real story, not the one portrayed in the movie.

Rudy grew up as one of fourteen children in a working-class household. He was small in size and had marginal grades. He described himself as a dreamer who always imagined that better was possible. After graduating high school, he served two years in the navy and worked another two years at a power plant. He loved Notre Dame football and his dream was to attend Notre Dame. The first time he applied to Notre Dame he was not accepted and instead, with the help of a priest who was the former President of the University, was accepted into Holy Cross College. While there he learned he was dyslexic. He worked for two years to improve his grades and finally, on his fourth application to Notre Dame, was accepted into the college. He tried out for the football team,earning a spot on the practice squad (no mean feat for someone 5’6″ and 185 lbs!) and spent two years helping prepare the team for games. In the last home game of his senior year, in recognition of his devotion to the team, Rudy was allowed to dress for the game with the team. He participated in three plays at the very end of the game, sacking the opposing team’s quarterback in the final seconds of play. Rudy was carried off the field by his teammates.

Rudy has some very interesting things to say about staying focused and reaching for impossible goals.

  • Regardless of our age, without something to strive for, we founder.
  • He talked about  “goofy thoughts,”  those voices in your head that tell you you can’t do something or that a goal is unrealistic, or the voices of others who tell you something is impossible.  Their message is the same:   aim lower; be satisfied with what you have; better isn’t possible.  Goofy thoughts drive you away from your purpose and can lead you into trouble.  I loved that he put his message in such simple terms so that kids in attendance could understand.
  • He talked about the importance of mentors in his life.  Most were just regular people and would hardly call themselves a mentor.  By giving encouragement they helped him to remain focused as he kept true to his course.  We need to believe that anything is possible.  (I wonder, who did you encourage today?)

 An inspirational story and a great message.

On My Departure from the LEDES Board

This was distributed last week to LEDES members regarding my decision to not run for the LEDES board in 2014:

“… After leading this organization since 2006, I decided not to run for the Board  again this year.    The principal reason is a rule in our by-laws that states that, after the maximum number of consecutive years of service, a Board member must drop off the Board and is not eligible to rerun for a 2 year period.  Although I have not reached my maximum number of years of service, if I choose not to run this year, I will be eligible to rerun again next year.  I believe any rule that limits the participation of members in a voluntary organization is arbitrary and ridiculous especially at a time when the ability of members to volunteer is so limited.  Nonetheless, instead of attempting to change the rule for my own purposes, I have chosen to follow it.

During my tenure as President both the organization and our discipline have evolved significantly.  The LEDES ebilling standards are now globally recognized as industry-specific EDI standards for electronic invoicing.  This is a really big deal!   The LOC leads the industry in creating and updating UTBMS standards, with the release of the Patent, Trademark, revised Project, eDiscovery, revised Activity and Expense codes and with two other UTBMS projects underway.  We established utbms.com as the definitive resource for finding information on all known UTBMS standards, and added the ability to “Contact LEDES” or “Contact UTBMS” on our web sites.  Participation by the LOC has been sought in a number of global and industry-wide efforts, most notably the Jackson project in the UK.

I am immensely proud of the achievements of this organization and believe our success is based on three things.  One of the basic tenets of the organization is that no single constituency within our membership drives the conversation in the creation of standards, each perspective is given equal voice.   This, coupled with the  independence of the organization as a standards body, gives us credibility.   Lastly, our success is due to the members who volunteer their time and expertise in participating in our efforts and let us know about initiatives under consideration by other organizations and get us a seat at the table.

I have been fortunate to meet and work with many of you during my period of leadership.  I want to thank you for your generosity and trust in sharing what often is proprietary information in order to make our standards better.  Long ago I stopped being surprised at how smart you are.  It has been a privilege to work with you and to lead this organization.”