Legal E-Billing Systems vs. General E-Billing: Why You Need a Specialized Tool

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to legal e-billing systems and software. If your IT teams are pushing back on the idea of purchasing a specialized legal e-billing tool, you’re not alone. Many corporate legal departments run into the same problem – being shoehorned into general billing software instead of e-billing and enterprise legal management (ELM) software designed for legal users.

The difference matters.

Because they’re designed specifically with the needs of legal users in mind, legal e-billing systems like ELM and AI-enabled invoice review offer a whole host of benefits for corporate legal departments of all sizes.

In this blog post, Jackson Mayes, vice president of ELM sales for Onit, and Robin Snasdell, managing director of Consilio, discuss the differences. Consilio is a member of Onit’s Strategic Alliances program.

The Downside of General E-Billing

When choosing billing tools, it might be tempting to think that a general e-billing system will be good enough to meet your needs. However, there are a few things to consider with this approach.

Most generalized e-billing systems incorporate some rules and support workflows to guide billing decisions. Still, those rules and workflows are not specific to a corporate legal department’s needs.

General e-billing systems have several shortfalls for corporate legal users. Among other things, these tools:

  • Don’t support electronic timekeeper rates from outside counsel
  • Can’t prevent law firms from billing to matters without approval
  • Can’t receive invoices in the industry-standard Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard (LEDES) format or compare LEDES invoices against company billing guidelines
  • Don’t permit you to write off or reject individual invoice line items
  • Don’t allow you to compare your spend against your budget
  • Don’t support the automatic allocation of invoices to specified cost centers or codes, and
  • Don’t allow you to report on spend by relevant factors such as time, activity, matter, firm and more.

Accurate and efficient legal invoicing requires all of these functionalities, and the inability to perform them can be detrimental to your company’s revenue streams.

The Benefits of Legal E-Billing Systems

Specific legal e-billing systems, which are a part of Onit’s legal management software, address all these shortfalls, and then some.

Legal e-billing systems support the submission, review and approval of timekeeper rates, which accelerates invoice review and reduces the chance of invalid rates being approved, leading to overpayment. Law firms can only submit invoices when they’ve been assigned to a matter by your department, which gives you better financial control and further reduces the chance that invalid invoices will be submitted.

Inbound invoices are automatically allocated to the appropriate matter, reducing the risk of incorrectly allocating spend. As invoices are received, they can be automatically compared against budgets for matters, vendors or matter phases to highlight variances. If you need to adjust or reject an individual line item, you can do so via automated or manual review, saving time and streamlining invoice review across your department.

Legal e-billing systems are also designed to work with invoices prepared in LEDES. They can quickly analyze fee and expense data included in law firm invoices, automatically comparing every invoice line against your outside billing guidelines and capturing the LEDES invoice data into a database for robust reporting on spend. The ability to work with LEDES invoices accelerates invoice review and ensures compliance with billing policies.

Simply put, legal e-billing systems work with the nuances of invoicing in the legal field. Chances are, you wouldn’t consider using non-legal technology for the most critical aspects of your business, like matter management or legal spend management. Billing and invoicing should be no different.

Onit is a leading provider of solutions designed specifically for legal e-billing, including Onit ELM and InvoiceAI. Schedule a demo today to implement the right legal e-billing system for your specific needs or email [email protected].

Consilio is a global leader in eDiscovery, document review, risk management, and legal consulting services. Through its Consilio Complete suite of capabilities, the company supports multinational law firms and corporations using innovative software, cost-effective managed services, and deep legal and regulatory industry expertise. For more information, please visit us at

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