That legal department budgets have faced increased scrutiny in the last several years isn’t new. However, how corporate legal has responded is usually interesting.
The LexisNexis® CounselLink® business recently teamed up with St. Louis-based Stuart, Maue, Ltd., which provides outsourced legal bill review capabilities. The CounselLink product is well-known for the strength of its automated bill review capabilities to review invoice charges and identifies errors and non-compliance to billing guidelines.
This deal with the Stuart Maue team now provides access to trained attorneys who evaluate each charge to validate appropriateness. Both companies are exhibiting at the Claims & Litigation Management Alliance conference this week – and we used the opportunity to catch up with Dr. Harry J. Maue, the company’s chairman and CEO for this Q&A:
1. What are the top trends in legal spend for 2016?
“I haven’t taken an official survey, but I can speak in terms of where I see our clients and prospects headed. For the last several years, putting a legal spend management program in place has been one of the top priorities (bill review, budgeting, matter management and workflow improvements). The industry as a whole has talked a lot about alternative fee arrangements as well. From my perspective, unless the client is extremely sophisticated, they tend to revert back to hourly billing because it lessens the need to understand the complexity of the case and it is much easier to compare firms and quantify efforts of timekeepers by reviewing hourly rates.
2. In the comments of a blog post, you recently remarked that while price is important, it was not the most important factor; please elaborate.
“Although price is always a factor in a client’s decision-making process, we often find that the ability to offer exemplary service is the major tipping point for a prospective client.
Being able to provide best practices in the form of:
– enhanced billing guidelines
– how to best structure workflows,
– enforcing budgets,
– reducing the cycle time for payment and review processes, and of course, saving increased amounts in the review process all are a part of our service set. Clients don’t want to sign a contract and never see the company again. The assignment of a dedicated, attorney program manager to provide these services – for all of our clients – have been a huge selling point for us.”
3. How can corporate counsel and outside law firms work better together to develop outside counsel billing guidelines?
“I think communication between both parties is key. Companies need to take time to make certain that their guidelines are properly communicated to the law firms. Additionally, firms should ask questions if they are unclear regarding certain aspects of the guidelines or make recommendations if some of guidelines are challenging for some reason. If a company uses a third-party bill review service, they will be able to provide the company with industry best practices and recommendations on how to improve or clarify guidelines. Also, they will be able to base many of their recommendations on the noncompliance found in the company’s own invoices.”
4. What is the value of having an attorney review legal invoices line by line?
“With an in-house legal team’s time and resources at a premium, we see the value of attorney review as three-fold:
a) Increased adherence to billing guidelines due to a consistent review versus periodic spot checking. Most organizations do not have the in-house staff available to consistently review adjustments made through their eBilling software.
b) Cost savings. A sophisticated review along with a consistent methodology provides our clients with maximum cost savings. Our staff of highly experience attorneys and accountants can find items that can’t be found by software alone. Additionally, we provide companies uniformity in their review process. When companies use their internal staff to review invoices, there is often a lack of consistency in what is allowed/not allowed.
c) Increased efficiency. By using our bill review services, companies can free up scarce staffing resources to focus on more pressing matters.”
5. You recently teamed up with LexisNexis CounselLink to provide outside bill review – what is the value you hope to drive for customers?
“We are extremely excited about our agreement with LexisNexis CounselLink. Along with CounselLink, Stuart Maue’s experienced team of attorneys and accountants can provide the skills and resources necessary to help a legal department reach its full potential. Clients with time and resource constraints will now have the advantage of having a team dedicated to reviewing their invoices with a consistent methodology. With internal legal departments pressured to do more with less, legal bill review will definitely provide additional cost savings and increased efficiency.”
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