Law Firm e-Billing Slow

Law Firm e-Billing Slow by pendragon David Whelan Electronic data interchange remains a big part of how large companies interact, sharing real-time order and billing information. Much of the current hope is on “open” rather than proprietary methods of sharing that information. As businesses adopt enterprise applications to automate billing and paying, law firms are being viewed as any other vendor, raising the expectation that they too will join in the exchange of electronic bills and information. Unfortunately, it seems that the benefit may not be as clear for the law firm as for the client.

I had the opportunity to review recent surveys, put out by Lawnet, on the trends in e-billing in law firms. Since Lawnet is primarily populated by large law firm technology staff, which is also the group most likely to have had experience with this, it was interesting to see how their firms are grappling with this.

The article, in both October’s Law Technology News and Law Firm Inc., discussed some of the findings. Not surprisingly, promises of standards and standardization are pulled apart by customers needing customizations, each of which added time and cost to the billing process. There’s no question that the firms at the top of the Am Law 100 can probably make a financial case for this, but as you move down the spectrum, unless the billings are substantial enough with any given client, the benefit is drowned out by the screaming costs. Outsourcing does not seem to improve the situation, since there is typically a percentage hit for each bill.

I came away with quite a satisfied feeling after reading the surveys and recent publications on e-billing. Lawyers often are derided as luddites, uninterested in technology. As hidebound as some are, there’s no question that the largest firms are nearly all grappling with this issue and some may end up making the very cutting edge decision that it doesn’t make good business sense.

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David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.