Cracking the Code: Tips for Implementing Task Codes Choosing Your Approach (Part II)

By Heather Ritchie posted 10-30-2018 11:06


In part one of this three-part post, we compared the pros and cons of using UTBMS and custom codes. But how should you approach the “task” in your organization?

Here are four considerations that will help you make the right call.

  1. What are your firm’s areas of practice? If the firm’s practice is limited to a few areas that have corresponding UTBMS code sets, you may opt to apply the UTBMS codes across all matters. A litigation boutique, for instance, may find the litigation (or L) codes are, by and large, good enough for the purpose, albeit not perfect. On the other hand, a full-service firm may wish to implement task codes for only those practices that lend themselves to being broken down by phases and tasks and create its own custom codes, given that UTBMS codes might not exist for some practice areas.
  2. What percentage of your clients require e-billing and how much revenue is associated with them? If the bulk of your clients who generate substantial revenue for your firm require e-billing, your timekeepers are likely familiar with the UTBMS codes and extending those codes to other clients’ matters makes sense – and can avoid the need to learn a new system. However, if most of your clients do not use e-billing and you have no reason to believe that will change any time soon, creating codes tailored to your organization may be a more suitable approach.
  3. What types of fee requests do you get? Are fee requests popping up across your practice areas or do you tend to get them in only one area? If the latter, and that area has an existing UTBMS code set, applying that set might work best. If none exist for that area and the request can be easily broken into phases and tasks, creating your own codes may be the better route.
  4. What resources do you have to support task codes? Developing custom codes requires a deep knowledge of the practice as well as time to create and administer templates and taxonomies. Checklists can provide an excellent starting point for developing a custom code template. If you have a Knowledge Management team, they could help translate the work on matters into phases and tasks. Regardless, going the custom route invariably requires input from busy practitioners to vet and refine the codes, and political capital to build consensus for adoption and use. Finally, your financial system will need to be able to handle custom codes.

In many firms, a combined approach often works best. Alternatively, UTBMS codes might be used, with the terminology adapted to more closely mirror the language currently used at the firm. For example, while a code set for human rights hearings may not exist, the litigation code set descriptions could be tweaked – with “document production” renamed “disclosure” – so the litigation code (L320) could still be used.

Up Next: In part three, we will consider some of the challenges that can arise when implementing tasks codes and suggest strategies to overcome them.