An Elevated Solution for Legal Electronic Billing and Legal Spend Management
doeASCENT™ (ASCENT™) is a next generation, end-to-end solution for legal spend and matter management. Developed to work on the legal enterprise collaboration (LEC) platform, ASCENT™ enables corporate legal departments and their law firms and vendors to collaborate globally in a highly intuitive and secure environment for legal electronic billing (eBilling) functions.
ASCENT™ simplifies and organizes information, communication and documents used by corporate legal departments. It allows in-house counsel the ability to: access and search real-time data, monitor project activity, review, edit and approve electronic invoices, track budgets, manage Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs), manage documents, create comprehensive reports, and communicate with colleagues, law firms and vendors. Overlaid on this rich functionality is a suite of reporting and analytics capability unmatched in the legal spend and matter management realm.
While this rich array of functionality for corporate legal department sets ASCENT™ apart from its competitors in its own right, what makes ASCENT™ revolutionary is the collaborative functionality it delivers to all parties involved in any given matter. The ability to work collaboratively on every aspect lightens the workload and improves the workflow.
One way electronic billing and legal spend solutions are changing the way we use legal technology rests in the form of Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs). There is a large amount of proof that corporations have seen remarkable benefits using AFAs. A simplified example would be where the two sides set standard pricing for any defined task. A corporate client pays a predetermined amount for any legal task assigned to them regardless of the time spent completing it. For the life of the matter, these expenses are billed at the set rate while the actual expense and time are tracked separately. This is typically referred to as “Shadow Invoicing”. This allows both parties to analyze savings and expenses involved in the work completed. AFAs may include arrangements that offer final settlement if the difference between the billed and the actual amount is too large.
The bottom line is that AFAs allow corporate clients to set budgets using expected forecasts. This is invaluable to the General Counsel and Legal Department Manager in determining the final numbers they will bring to the boardroom when called. With the increasing pressure to lower legal expenses, management is expected to find more clever methods to limit or reduce expenses than simply reducing staff. AFAs can offer an elevated and more intelligent solution that offers the added benefits of tracking, analysis with historical data, and transparent data to build the next matter’s budget. Each round of data acquired within a legal spend system builds more information regarding which firms work the best on any given task. This helps refine the AFAs to where both sides of the arrangement are reaping the benefits.
While most legal spend management applications define collaboration as either an Outlook integration or access to the corporate legal department's own applications, ASCENT™ is different because it delivers corporate legal department data and functionality from within the corporate legal department to a cloud-based environment which is separate from the corporate legal department application or the law firms applications. This environment is securely integrated with the corporate legal department's core spend management functionality and offers the option for law firms to integrate to this area as well.
This shared workspace is the collaborative environment where law firms come to submit invoices, to check status', to look up matter information, and to run reports. The corporate legal department can use this space to share documents, to publish reports, alerts, updates, notes, and much more. But beyond such static functionality, the corporate legal department can also turn on dynamic functionality allowing the law firm to submit budgets, case plans, timekeeper updates, request new matters, to engage in matter or invoice workflow. Through the use of ASCENT™ collaborative workspaces, information and functionality can be segmented and distributed based on a single case profile or based on the requirements of internal workgroups (Litigation, M&A, Labor, Special Projects, etc.). Law firms, or other outside vendors, can then be invited to join these groups and information and functionality can be shared with appropriate security levels enacted for functionality down to document level access.
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