Vendor Management - Annual Vendor Mailing and Legal Billing Policy

An annual mailing to your active legal services vendors in the first few weeks of January with your legal billing and rates submission policies is a good way to start off the new year. The cover note should highlight any changes made to the policy or guidelines for the current year. 

The audience for your Legal Billing Policy and Rate Submission Guidelines should be ALL legal services vendors. For your legal billing platform you will want all vendors billing for services related to a legal matter to bill on that platform.  Only with 100% of spend on a platform can you accurately report and forecast cost. 

In this post we will focus on the legal billing policy.

A legal billing policy need not be complex.  The sample legal billing policy in #opsinaboxlegal is 6 pages long. You will want to make sure to keep the policy simple for several reasons.

First, simplicity aids enforcement of the provisions.  The minute legal ops stops enforcing even one policy provision, many vendors quickly come to the conclusion that compliance is optional.  For this reason, if your billing system, for example, cannot trigger a notification or auto-apply a business rule to apply a discount when a volume milestone is reached, I would argue that you billing policy should not include a volume billing discount.  If your monitoring capability improves, you can always add a term to your next iteration.

Second, service providers have to administer multiple client guidelines. Keeping to standard terms and provisions helps your service providers abide by the ground rules.  In fact, I would argue that legal billing policies could largely be standardized with perhaps, a client-specific appendix or two.  In all the years I rented an apartment in NYC, I only ever had a single form lease that was available for purchase in the legal forms aisle of Staples.  Not surprisingly perhaps, the legal billing policies at all 3 companies I have worked for bear a lot in common, though successive iterations have grown more simple.