Billing for SharePoint Document Review

How to avoid confusion and loss of billable hours for work done with documents in SharePoint

Purpose and Importance of This Procedure 

Many of our clients have specific guidelines for file handling that includes billing practices which, when not followed, result in non-payment to the Firm. The Chubb Legal Services Agreement Is the most stringent example. The general goal of such guidelines is to prevent the insurance company or other client from being billed for what is legitimately secretarial work, rather than legal work done by lawyers and paralegals. Secretarial work is traditionally non-billable and most firms do not try to bill for it. On the other hand, all work that involves review and analysis by a trained legal professional, including lawyers and paralegals, or Litigation Support Specialists as we call them, can be billed so long as it is not purely administrative in nature.

Our SharePoint system is a powerful tool because, in addition to providing access from anywhere to all case materials, it allows for faster sorting, searching and identification of documents. In the pressurized realm of litigation, this speed of access and superior organizational structure can make a major difference in the outcome of a civil action.

In order to enjoy these benefits, time must be spent in the review and analysis of documents. In firms that do not have a digital platform for document management, there are no real ways to capture the benefit of the document and analysis. On the other hand, pure document management is neither billable under most legal service plans, nor does it typically rise to the level of review and analysis.

Because we wish to fully adhere to these legal service requirements while continuing to provide our clients with the preserved and re-usable benefits of document analysis. The only way we can ethically do so, and have the financial ability to do so, is to understand exactly how to differentiate between “document management” and “document review and analysis” and bill for them as appropriate, using the correct syntax and terminology needed to avoid misunderstandings with clients or their billing auditors. 

WARNING! The terms “document management” and “metadata” are red flags to billing auditors because by themselves they do not denote that legal work was done. When these functions are incidental to other properly billable work, they should not appear in the billing entry. Instead, the underlying document review and analysis should be described in the billing entry.

Definitions

Document Management: The process of moving documents into the correct location within our document storage system and applying basis metadata in bulk (such as date received and document source).

Document Review and Analysis: Intelligent and thoughtful determination of the meaning, significance and evidentiary value of documents and their contents, conducted in such a way as to preserve the fruits of the effort, which include:

  • Identification of issues and sub-issues;
  • Identification key subject matter and document context;
  • Recording relevant dates and chronologies;
  • Correlation of tangible proof of positions and representations expressed by witnesses in context with other facts;
  • Determining compliance with document and record keeping standards applicable to litigation parties;
  • Identification of key exhibits for use in motions, depositions and at trial; and
  • Discovery of key facts that pertain to various claims and defenses (such as is commonly found in medical records, financial records and email).
No Billing For Uploading on Chubb Cases: Uploading documents into SharePoint and applying basic metadata in bulk is not billable. Applying metadata based upon close examination of a document is billable as review and analysis, and it is important not to forget to bill for this valuable legal service, which is performed by both lawyers and Litigation Support Specialists.

While it is usually important to preserve the fruits of document review and analysis by leveraging SharePoint’s document content types (metadata), applying some kinds of metadata is not billable. Typically, the metadata that is applied in bulk when documents are first uploaded into SharePoint will not be billable. On the other hand, the information that can only be added by someone actually reviewing the document is the product of document analysis and is billable. The latter of these two items is by far the most time consuming of these alternatives, so it is important to bill for this activity. This applies equally to Lawyers and Litigation Support Specialists. 

No Billing For Uploading on Chubb Cases: Uploading documents into SharePoint and applying basic metadata in bulk is not billable. Applying metadata based upon close examination of a document is billable as review and analysis, and it is important not to forget to bill for this valuable legal service, which is performed by both lawyers and Litigation Support Specialists.

Examples of billing entries for SharePoint Document Review & Analysis:

  1. When adding event and document dates (LSS work only):

    “Work on chronology of events based upon review of _____________ [description] documents received by firm.”

  2. When adding other metadata, such as issues, comments and keywords:

    “Review and analysis of records from _________ [source of records] relating to ____________ [subject matter].”

WARNING! The terms “document management” and “metadata” are red flags to billing auditors because by themselves they do not denote that legal work was done. When these functions are incidental to other properly billable work, they should not appear in the billing entry. Instead, the underlying document review and analysis should be described in the billing entry.