The following Impact Awards submission was written by Dave Voelpel, Legal Operations Manager. Mr. Voelpel is one of three Impact Award winners for 2017. All three winning submissions are being featured in Business of Law blog posts from LexisNexis.
Oddly enough, I am not going to write about the $4.7 million cost savings we have realized from CounselLink, or the “Big Brother” effect which keeps firms in line with our billing guidelines.
I’m not going to elaborate about the incredible benchmarking available within CounselLink to help negotiate rates, or the fact that I have 100% of my outside counsel submitting invoices into CounselLink.
Instead, I want to share a process improvement that can only be done with the use of CounselLink.
For those who handle the financial responsibilities within the law department, I’m sure you’ll agree that accruals are a laborious task. My accounting department required monthly accruals. I fought back and said I didn’t have enough time or resources to submit monthly accruals, but I could submit quarterly accruals.
This, however, left a gap in reporting for the first two months of the quarter and a large spike in the third month of the quarter.
Our accruals include unapproved invoices in CounselLink and unbilled time through the end of the quarter, which requires feedback from the law firms. It took approximately three days and a team of paralegals, admins and myself to request, collect, consolidate, and submit the accruals. Even with this all-out effort, I was still late in submitting accruals more often than not. Not a good reflection on myself or the legal department.
Then along came the Accrual Module in CounselLink. I now handle the entire accrual process from request to submission on a monthly basis within a couple of hours.
The request goes out to over 50 law firms with a push of a button and includes over 300 matters. It has provided a more accurate monthly spend and reduced the spike at the end of each quarter. The accruals are all tracked within CounselLink for auditing purposes and submitted on time to accounting.
For those who are not familiar with the Accrual Module but are required to submit accruals, I highly recommend using this module. In addition to the improvement of the accrual process, it has helped to build partnerships with the billing teams from the law firms.
I found that since this partnership was formed, the overall billing experience has been very positive for both parties. A few lessons learned when beginning to use the Accrual Module:
- Send an email to the law firms, specifically, the CounselLink admins, with an explanation and instructions about the new process you are implementing.
- Make sure your law firms have someone with the Budget Contact role.
- If a matter is transferred to another firm to handle, make sure you remove the matter from the original firm.
- Don’t tell your boss how easy it is.
The Accrual Module has improved efficiency, accuracy, and communication for a more positive experience for all involved and those no longer involved (paralegals and admins).