Kevin Harrang has no doubts about whether an e-billing system is worth implementing. As deputy general counsel at Seattle-based Microsoft Corp., Harrang was charged with ensuring the legal department complied with Bill Gates' objective of creating a paper-free company. One of Harrang's first steps was to set up an automated billing process for the department in 2002. That was no small task--Microsoft's department comprises 800 employees, including 200 attorneys who employ 600 law firms around the globe. After implementing an e-billing solution from Houston-based DataCert Inc., Harrang spent three years trying to meet the corporate mandate.
Today, not one of Microsoft's law firms or legal vendors submits a paper invoice. Even more impressive, though, is the amount of money the company saved in the process.
Harrang's initial goal, for example, was to make receiving, reviewing, approving and paying legal department invoices a paperless function. But at the same time, Microsoft also was implementing a matter management system, and Harrang wanted the e-billing solution to work with that system so he could analyze the legal department's spending.
The first step then involves gathering a team of major stakeholders, including attorneys, legal secretaries, law firm representatives, legal technology consultants and representatives of the corporate IT, finance, accounting and accounts payable departments. Doing so ensures you identify everything you want your system to do at the outset and promotes a buy-in from all affected stakeholders, some of whom may not even be part of the legal function.
An easy way to get a handle on your technical and reporting requirements is to look at what others are doing. Touch base with your law firms, as well as other legal departments that already are using e-billing. After all, these folks live with the technology full time. Larger law firms can help you compare systems because they usually have clients using most, if not all, of the systems on the market.
Harrang, for example, had consultants assemble a list of 10 "peer" law departments that employed e-billing--including Cisco Systems Inc., General Motors Corp. and General Electric--and then conducted a handful of on-site visits to view their systems first-hand.
Also, keep in mind that many vendors are application service providers (ASPs), which means the e-billing system resides on the vendor's server. In some cases, a law firm sends an invoice to the vendor's site for the initial rules audit. The vendor then sends it to either an e-billing or matter management system residing inside your corporate firewall.
Regardless of the configuration, your IT department will play an important role here as well, especially when it comes to ensuring the vendor's security measures are adequate.
Chicago-based Trizec Properties Inc. is a real estate investment trust with 49 office properties in seven cities. Trizec's GC, Ted Jadwin, manages 10 attorneys working in six locations.
To centralize and streamline his invoicing function, Jadwin chose a Web-based e-billing and matter management solution from Washington-based Serengeti Law. Previously, Jadwin's secretary spent a week each month processing paper invoices. Now Jadwin's attorneys use the system to keep their files and billings current. That reduces the time it takes Jadwin to review invoices. In addition, he can easily generate spending reports.