I am pleased to report that my interview with Onit that was posed to their blog has been picked up by JDSupra. You can read their version here.
I have learned of a couple new ebilling and matter management systems available to law departments, CaseGlide and Legal Track Software. The listings have been added to our Resource Room list of law department ELM solutions.
I have been leading the Tax Accommodation Subcommittee for the LEDES Oversight Committee for the last year, spearheading changes to the global ebilling formats for two projects:
Project 1: Accommodating a greater number of cursor columns to the right of the decimal separator for the tax rate only. These proposed changes impact LEDES 98BI and XML Ebilling 2.0 and 2.1.
Project 2: New functionality to accommodate Tiered Taxes. The changes required are extensive and result in the creation of LEDES XML Ebilling 2.2. The proposed solution adds 2 new segments and 13 data elements to the file and significantly changes the invoice math statement.
You can access the proposed changes and feedback survey through https://ledes.org/proposed-standards-requiring-public-comment/, which page includes a link for providing public feedback on the proposed standards. The public comment period will remain open until 8 September, 2019.
Just back from Legal Tech where I found a new ELM system, LeGuard, that allows clients access to outside counsel WIP in order to manage matters and spend. To my knowledge this is the second system of this type now available. Is legal ebilling evolving in this direction?
CaseTrack, by Economic Analysis Group, has been acquired by Mitratech.
This acquisition, the latest in a dizzying 2015 acquisition schedule by Mitratech, brings yet another ELM product within the Mitratech ELM system portfolio.
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.
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.
In yet another blow to the shrinking gene pool of EBMM solutions available in the marketplace, it was reported yesterday that Wolters Kluwer has acquired the remaining shares of Third Coast Holdings, Inc., whose holdings include the Datacert Passport EBMM system. The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval.
WK is the owner of CT Corporation and therefore the corporate parent of TyMetrix, another leading EBMM vendor system. Both companies have been staunch competitors in the ELM marketpace.
CT Corporation acquired Tripoint in 2005 and within a few years the system disappeared from the EBMM landscape. It will be very interesting to see how this acquisition evolves.
I constantly hear rumors of MMEB vendor systems for sale, and the rumor mill has been buzzing for the past few months.
I read today that LT Online Corporation, who offers the Lawtrac system, has been acquired by Mitratech. Congratulations to Frank Orzo and his team.
This follows acquisitions in the past few years of TyMetrix by CT Corporation, Tripoint by CT Corporation, Mitratech by Vista Equity Partners, Serengeti by Thomson Reuters, Visabillity by Bottomline Technologies and Allegient also by Bottomline Technologies.
It is always interesting to see what the new owner will do with these systems once acquired. Many don’t fully understand the lengthy sales cycle. Others lack product vision or the commitment necessary to evolve the product. Others still see acquisition as the opportunity to acquire customers and, after a short period of stasis, stop selling and eventually withdraw support for the product. It will be interesting to see what happens in this case.
There is a new ebilling offering for law departments called Viewabill is a very new take on the client’s desire to manage better. The system gives clients the ability to monitor work performed by outside counsel real time. It allows clients to monitor services provided while work is underway instead of discovering four or more weeks later when a bill is submitted that the work deviated from the agreed to plan. With this system there should never be any surprises.
I am intrigued by this product for a couple of reasons: it completely eliminates the need to provide accrual information, and it provides insight into the actual services performed under a flat fee instead of producing a shadow invoice. These are two of the most cumbersome manual processes in ebilling today and with Viewabill they are not a factor.
More importantly, it represents a new take on ebilling. I always have been intellectually interested to see how ebilling will evolve. Will this be a better mouse trap? I can’t wait to see.
I do feel the need to caution law firms. Now is the time to get your billing practices in order. Because Viewabill allows clients to see real time data, time must be entered on a timely (daily) basis, as cleanly as possible and in accordance with the client’s billing guidelines. You don’t have the luxury of the billing process to massage raw entries under this system. I suggest you don’t wait until one of your clients requests your firm to use this kind of system before you start to put your timekeeping practices in order.