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Issue 207 | May 28, 2004
I/P Task-Based Billing Codes

The Conference Board of Canada has published a "Task-Based Billing Intellectual Property Code Set" at http://www.conferenceboard.ca/csle/utbms/utbmsipcs.htm. Although it uses some Canadian terminology, these task and activity identifiers are better for intellectual property matters than the Uniform Task-Based Management System that was introduced in the U.S. in 1995.

Task-based billing is a system of using commonly-accepted codes to describe tasks that are performed as professional services. For legal services, the system grew out of the need for better analysis and cost control over conventional systems that merely break charges down by date of service. By requiring bills to be categorized according to a standard set of tasks and activities, rather than by matter and day of month, clients can sometimes get a better handle on where their legal dollars are going.

This new approach led to a confusing proliferation different task and activity descriptions until, in 1995, a consortium of legal service providers and consumers created the Uniform Task-Based Management System ("UTBMS") with standard code sets for litigation, counseling, bankruptcy, and projects. For example, the litigation code set is grouped into five "phases" -- Case Assessment, Development and Administration, Pre-Trial Pleadings and Motions, Discovery, Trial Preparation and Trial, and Appeal -- which each consists of a number of standardized tasks, such as Written Discovery and Document Production.

However, according to an article in the February 2, 2004 issue of "Legal Times," a joint study by the Association of Corporate Counsel and Serengeti Law found that a mere 4.4 percent of the 266 companies that were surveyed required the use of uniform, task-based codes in 2002. And, perhaps more troubling, about one-fourth of those companies admitted that they don't use the coded data at all.

So, what's stopping task-based billing for legal services? According to another article in the April 2004 issue of "Corporate Counsel," the UTBMS code sets are so unwieldy that the resulting mass of information becomes overwhelming. General counsel wind up with drawers full of CD-ROMs containing useless data, and outside counsel don't care much for the system, either. "Lawyers look at the codification of legal services, and they're appalled by it," said David Briscoe, an Altman Weil consultant. "They say, 'There's no way I'm going to take the time to learn this, and, besides, what I do does not fit into the list of codes.'"

Now, if you do intellectual property law, the "Task-Based Billing Intellectual Property Code Set" leaves one less reason to complain about task-based billing.

For more information on managing your intellectual property resources, contact the author of this "APLF Update," Bill Heinze (bill.heinze@tkhr.com), at Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley LLP in Atlanta, Georgia USA and via the new "I/P Updates Blog" at http://billheinze.blogspot.com (RSS/Atom feeds).

The information contained in this email is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent legal advice. Neither the APLF nor the author intends to create an attorney client relationship by providing this information to you through this message.

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