This 2-part series will explain the power behind UTBMS codes and how they can uncover valuable information found in your legal invoices. Part I will review what UTBMS codes are and how to use them. Part II will focus on why they are a vital component in the analysis of your legal spend data.
Clients often have questions about how law firms submit their invoices to us. Most law firms have software that converts their bills into a machine-readable text file known as a LEDES file. Invoice data is displayed in a certain order and format that allows an organization to accept a legal invoice in a standard way. LEDES is a standard file format used for the electronic transmission of bills between the law firm and client (or third-party bill reviewer).
When creating a LEDES file, a law firm may use certain codes called UTBMS (Uniform Task Based Management System) codes. These codes are used to standardize the categorization of legal work and expenses. These codes give law firms a common method for identifying the work breakdown and cost information for their services. The UTBMS codes were developed in a collaborative effort by the American Bar Association, the American Corporate Counsel Association, and a group of corporate clients and law firms coordinated by Price Waterhouse LLP (now PricewaterhouseCoopers).
Whether these codes are used are based on several factors including the client’s desire for budget tracking information as well as the need for in-depth analysis of task and expense information.
Basics of UTBMS codes
UTBMS Codes assist a law firm in the categorization of fees and expenses. UTBMS Codes are divided into 4 main types of codes:
For purposes of this blog, we will deal with the Litigation Codes only (often referred to as L Codes). Each of these codes are further divided into specific phases. For example, the Litigation Code set is divided into 5 broad phases of litigation: assessment and development as well as administration of the case; all pre-trial charges and related motions; discovery; preparing for the trial and the actual trial; and the appeal. Each of these phases can be further divided into tasks in order to describe.
An Example of Litigation Phases and Tasks:
L100 Case Assessment and Development (L100= Phase Code)
L110 Fact Investigation (L110, L120, L130=Task Codes)
L200 Pre Trial Pleadings and Motions (L200= Phase Code)
L210 Pleadings (L210, L220, L230=Task Codes)
L220 Preliminary Injunctions/Provisional Remedies
L230 Court Mandated Conferences
So how does this work in a law firm? For UTBMS codes to be valuable, attorneys must spend some time understanding and learning how to apply the UTBMS codes to their entries. These codes are entered into the time and billing software and once an invoice is complete, the billing or accounting department has the ability with most billing software to convert the invoice into a LEDES file for electronic transmission to the client or third-party bill reviewer.