Drawbacks of Uniform Task Based Billing Codes for fees as used by legal departments

On the law department side, several punctures let out a lot of UTBMS air in terms of fees. First, you need software to sort through the time entries and place them in their appropriate categories. Not every law department has that software or is willing to invest in it.

A bigger nail is that most law departments do not have enough similar matters to make meaningful comparisons on performance across law firms. Circumstances vary and the critical mass of data does not accumulate.

Lawyers in law firms are sometimes sloppy about accurately sub-dividing their time into code tasks and activities. A fair amount of activity is dumped into broad codes, but who in the law department can tell?

Then too the codes are rigid – as are all descriptive taxonomies – and may wrench out of shape the services forced into them.

Here’s another spike – law departments do not take the time to analyze what data they could develop from the UTBMS codes. Even with good software, lots of comparable data, accurate time entries, everything peters out during analysis. Beyond that, only if the analysis leads to effective change at the firm does the coding of fee entries (as compared to disbursements) bring benefits.

As a final wound that causes the air to leak out, lawyers in the department still have to review the bill, even if it is adorned with task codes. And, it is not tasks that so much make a difference in costs and value as staffing and management (See my post of Dec. 21, 2008: UTBMS with 8 references.).

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