What’s your back-up plan when someone leaves or workloads suddenly increase?
For many reasons, many companies, both large and small, have gone to a dedicated legal bill review unit (LBRU) to handle legal bill reviews (LBR). Whether your LBRU is just one or two professionals or a large team of professionals, you need to have a back-up plan in place to implement when someone leaves the unit or is out on an extended leave or workloads dramatically increase. Unfortunately, such things can happen very suddenly and with little notice.
Legal bill review is more art than science and it is a learned art that takes both time and practice to perfect.
Many claims functions can be easily transferred among other claims professionals when a team member leaves. Reviewing legal bills is not one of those immediately interchangeable functions – at least not if you want to watch your claims legal expense soar.
Even large LBRUs can be stretched when someone leaves the unit. The effect on a small unit can be devastating as they have very few options to consider when someone leaves the LBRU. In fact, I can only think of two options that could be implemented while a new LBR professional is hired or trained from within the department. These two options are: stretch out the review period to accommodate the time restraints of remaining staff and/or outsource LBR on a temporary basis (see more below).
For a long term back-up solution, instead of creating all F/T LBRU positions, create some P/T LBRU positions.
Consider creating part-time LBRU positions instead of full time positions. That way if one person leaves, the other person(s) could increase the amount of time to devote to LBR by transferring some of their more easily transferrable non-LBR work to others in the department. This part-time solution would especially be recommended for smaller companies who may not have enough LBR work for more than one or two fulltime reviewers.
Outsourcing legal bill review.
Also as a long term solution, consider outsourcing a part of your legal bill review. Just as you can do with a P/T employee, you can increase the workflow to a LBR vendor as the need arises provided you have already established a relationship with the LBR vendor. (Outsourcing review of indepdendent or non-panel counsel bills is a good way to start a working relationship with a LBR vendor.)
An outsourcing option will help insure a continuation of consistency in LBR which is absolutely paramount in dealing with outside counsel on their legal bills. More importantly, it will help insure greater consistency in legal cost savings which afterall is the main goal of a LBRU.
For more information on outsourcing LBR, see my prior posts, “Outsourcing Legal Bill Reviews” and “Focus on the Skill Set of Individual Legal Auditors to Avoid Needless Problems with Outside Counsel.”