Chicago to use Web for legal bills

Chicago Department of Law

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Chicago officials expect that a new Web-based application will improve the organization and efficiency of processing legal bills from outside counsel.

The city's Department of Law said last week it will work with Examen Inc., a provider of outside counsel management solutions, to electronically process bills from law firms.

Previously the Law Department worked with a company called Legal Cost Control Inc., but city officials said that the bill reviewing was not efficient enough. "A bill went to the city first, then to Legal Cost, and then back to the city and back to the law firm if there were any problems," said Jennifer Hoyle, public information officer at the Law Department. "The process was too linear."

The city wanted information to be available to everyone at the same time, so officials decided to switch to Examen, who would file all bills online and make them available to Chicago officials, Examen and the firms, Hoyle said.

"We wanted to set up a more centralized standard and find a less time-consuming way to review," Hoyle added.

Once the implementation process is completed on September 2, all firms — regardless of company size, the amount or type of work performed or the billing software used — will be able to file bills online at LegalPrecision.com, according to Dan Wilson, webmaster for Examen.

Firms that prefer to use paper billing may continue to do so, but they should send the bills to Examen, who will file the bills electronically. That way, the Department of Law will be able to find all bills online.

"Our main goal is to provide consistency across all of Chicago's law firms," said Wilson.

Since every bill is filed online, if there are any problems, firms or city officials may access bill information online instead of having to wait for the bill to be sent. LegalPrecision also lets firms track the status of their bills from submission through payment.

Examen will use its SmartReview technology to examine bills and help city officials analyze legal charges more quickly and carefully, using review standards set up by Chicago to determine what fees are acceptable. Examen also will evaluate whether Chicago can cut costs.

"If a senior attorney is doing work that a paralegal can do, we don't want to be paying more than we have to be paying," Hoyle said.

Online billing is apparently a booming development in the federal government, particularly in procurement, according to Warren Suss, President of Suss Consulting.

"The federal government is encouraging contractors to submit invoices online," Suss said, "and they process them and pay them with electronic payments so there is literally no paper that changes hands between the government and many federal contractors."

Anthrax scares from a couple of years ago forced the federal government to look at online billing applications like Examen because sending bills by mail began to take too long, Suss said. "This is definitely a trend of the future and the federal government has been a leader in that regard."

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