In the mid-2000s, I co-founded and chaired a committee charged with updating the UTBMS
. By then the limitations were obvious.
The UTBMS provide corporate clients and their outside law firms with an authoritative dictionary of legal services billing and standard measures against which they can quantify, assess and evaluate outside legal work.
For this reason, the UTBMS coding standard provides the most benefits to law firms, because they can avoid divergent and administratively costly coding systems promulgated independently by their various clients.
The UTBMS billing codes are helpful but not mandatory.
Most companies utilize billing guidelines to define a firm's rate structure, UTBMS code usage (essential for accurate data collection), task billing expectations such as block billing, minimum billing increments, and administrative task definitions as well as expense billing expectations among other things.
While noncompliance with some billing guidelines such as disallowance of block billing or the mandated use of UTBMS codes may not equate to "overbilling," they do impede the ability to accurately collect and analyze billing data and other key performance indicators ("KPIs") which are the most important and powerful tools in a legal spend management program.
For this reason the strict adherence to the use of UTBMS billing codes is essential and why block billing is frequently disallowed.
Analyzing data based on generalized categories of activities (e.g., UTBMS
Code L240 Dispositive Motions) for purposes of staffing is suboptimal.
An analysis which starts at a higher level, based on case counts, matter frequency or over-generalized categories of activities based on UTBMS
codes, usually leads to a suboptimal decision to in-house entire work streams, rather than the specific tasks that would make the most meaningful difference.