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Archived updates for Monday, December 27, 2004

I/P Task-Based Billing Codes

The Conference Board of Canada has published a "Task-Based Billing Intellectual Property Code Set" which, although it uses some Canadian terminology, provides task and activity identifiers that are better-suited for intellectual property matters than the "Uniform Task-Based Management System" used by many large clients.
Task-based billing is a system of using commonly-accepted codes to describe tasks that are performed as professional services. during legal 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 by 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? The April 2004 issue of "Corporate Counsel," describes 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, of Altman Weil. "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.'"
But now, if you do intellectual property law, the "Task-Based Billing Intellectual Property Code Set" leaves one less reason to complain about implementing a task-based billing system.
For more information on managing your intellectual property resources, including a copy of the I/P task-based billing codes, contact Bill Heinze (, at Thomas, Kayden, Horstemeyer & Risley LLP in Atlanta, Georgia USA, and sign-up for the "APLF Updates" at
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