Uniform Task Based Management System (UTBMS)
UTBMS stands for the Uniform Task Based Management System, a series of codes used to classify the legal services performed by a law firm in an electronic invoice submission.
New UTBMS Standards from the LEDES Oversight Committee
The LEDES Oversight Committee is pleased to announce the release of revised UTBMS Activity and Expense Codes. See below for more information.
A History of UTBMS
In the mid-1990’s major US law departments and insurers wanted to better understand the services provided by outside counsel. The manner in which paper bills presented this information was virtually impossible to digest; it was not uncommon for bill to include a description of services performed by a timekeeper on a single day that ran for multiple paragraphs or pages.
A joint group from The American Bar Association, the Association of Corporate Counsel and PricewaterhouseCoopers was formed to create a unified electronic billing standard.
As part of this effort, it was decided that electronic invoice time entries should be task-based and aggregated by type of work performed, resulting in the possibility that multiple time entries could result from the services performed in a single day on a matter.
To group services by task, codes to classify the services performed were needed.
The project to create a coding system ran simultaneously with the effort to create a standard billing format and resulted in the UTBMS code sets.
While the e-billing project group morphed into what is now known as the LEDES® Oversight Committee (permanently tasked with maintaining the standards for the exchange of billing and other information related to the delivery of legal services), the UTBMS project team disbanded once their work on the original code sets was complete.
By coding time entries it was possible for receiving systems to electronically test invoice submissions, allowing for consistent enforcement of the law department’s outside counsel billing guidelines and alleviating some of the burden on bill reviewers. Time entry coding assists with reporting and facilitates comparison of the services provided by outside counsel working for the law department.
The Original Ratified Code Sets
The original ABA group set forth four different code sets. See http://www.abanet.org/litigation/utbms/home.html for an overview of the ABA Code Sets.
Code Set Components
Time Entry Codes
In each of the code sets set forth, UTBMS coding for time entries is broken into three components:
Phase Codes describe the phase of the work performed. Phase Codes begin with a letter to distinguish the code set used and are always numbers in multiples of 100.
- L100 indicates the Assessment, Development and Administration phase of handling a litigation matter; L200 indicates the Pre-Trial Pleadings and Motions phase, etc.
Task Codes describe the task performed. The Phase of work performed is inferred from the first 2 characters of the Task Code and are followed by numbers that are (at least as originally set forth) multiples of 10.
- L110 indicates Fact Investigation/Development tasks; L120 indicates Analysis/Strategy tasks, etc. Both of the codes in this example associate to Assessment, Development and Administration phase of the Litigation Code Set because both begin with L1.
In e-billing, law departments decide whether Outside Counsel report time using Phase or Task coding; Phase coding is hierarchically less granular than Task coding.
Activity Codes describe the actual work performed by the timekeeper. Activity codes always begin with A1 and there are eleven codes in total. The Activity Codes are exactly the same across all of the original ABA UTBMS sets.
- A101 is used to indicate that the timekeeper performed work associated with Plan and Prepare for; A102 indicates that Research was performed; A103 indicates Draft/Revise; etc.
In e-billing, Law departments decide whether Activity coding is required at all on time entries.
Expense Entry Codes
Expense Codes were created to classify the expenses submitted by law firms on their invoices. Expense codes begin with an E and are numbered consecutively from 101 to 124. The Expense Codes are exactly the same across all of the original ABA UTBMS sets.
- E101 is used for Copying; E102 for Outside Printing; E103 for Word Processing; E104 for Facsimile; etc.
It is not unusual for law departments to mandate maximum charges per expense item (like $.07 per page for internal copies) or to exclude usage of certain expense codes (like disallowing use of E124 Other)
Other Ratified Standards
Canadian Litigation Code Set
A group within Canada met in 1997 to consider the UTBMS code sets created by the ABA as they pertain to handling matters within the Canadian legal system. The group adopted the ABA Project and Counseling code sets without modification, discarded the Bankruptcy code set and set forth a revised version of the ABA’s Litigation Code Set. More information on their efforts and the Canadian Litigation Code Set can be found here.
DRI Litigation Code Set
A group within DRI met in 2005 to reconsider the Litigation Code Set as used on insurance matters, and their efforts led to a modification that referred to as the DRI Litigation Code Set. More information on this code set can be found here and here.
Code Sets Ratified by the LEDES Oversight Committee
In 2005 a UTBMS Task force was formed to reconsider the ratified code sets and whether additional code sets were needed. The UTBMS Task Force merged with the LEDES™ Oversight Committee in 2006 and their work is continued by the LOC UTBMS Subcommittee. The LOC set forth the following UTBMS standards in 2007:
- LOC Patent Code Set
- LOC Trademark Code Set
- LOC Revised Project Code Set intended to facilitate global e-billing (as most e-billing outside of the US is on transactional matters)
- LOC Universal UTBMS Definitions In 2010 the LEDES Oversight Committee reviewed the original ABA ratified code sets (see above) and, without modifying the codes themselves in any way, expanded the definitions to provide greater information on how the codes should be used. The purpose of this project was to provide guidance for non-US based legal vendors required to use the codes without a thorough understanding of the US legal system upon which the codes were created.
- LOC eDiscovery Code Set ratified in 2011
- 2013 LOC Revised UTBMS Activity Codes / 2013 LOC Revised UTBMS Activity Codes w mapping. The LOC Revised UTBMS Activity Codes have been normalized with the DRI activity codes and now support eDiscovery activities that are billed as a service.
Timekeepers need to understand and assimilate the new codes into their regular timekeeping routine. Clients with existing ebilling implementations that want to migrate to the revised activity codes should consider notifying every active timekeeper in the client’s system of the request to begin using the revised codes.
- 2013 LOC Revised UTBMS Expense Codes / 2013 LOC Revised UTBMS Expense Codes w mapping. LOC Revised UTBMS Expense Codes ratified in 2013 (with mapping to the original codes and without mapping) The LOC Revised UTBMS Expense Codes begin with the letter designater “X” to distinguish usage from the original UTBMS Expense Codes. This was necessary because of the frequency of customization of the original UTBMS Expense Codes by clients and vendors involved in legal ebilling. Many new codes have been added, reflective of the customized codes used today by ebilling clients and which allow greater specificity by clients in terms of the items that will or will not be reimbursed by the client.
Understanding the inevitable, codes between X900 and X998 have been reserved for customization by clients. We request that clients do not customize using any other codes within the numbering hierarchy, allowing for modification of the expense codes with greater ease in the future, if necessary.
The LOC suggests that clients with existing ebilling implementations that want to migrate to the revised expense codes consider giving law firms at least a four month phase in cycle before rejecting invoices that contain the original codes.
Typically at a law firm expenses are recorded using the law firm’s internal codes and upon the creation of a LEDES invoice file are converted to the client’s codes through a mapping exercise performed once for each client by a high level firm financial or billing manager. As such, except for updating the mapping process, usage of the new codes does not need to be assimilated by all timekeepers at a firm.
These are the only ratified standards in release today.
While some third-party billing systems do not require UTBMS coding as an element of an electronic invoice line item, those that do often deviate slightly from the standards. Refer to documentation provided by your law department clients or the e-billing vendor system used for the specific codes required in any e-billing implementation.