Converting To A Unified Matter Management And E-Billing System For Greater Efficiency And Improved Financial Reporting

Monday, May 4, 2009 - 00:00

Scott Gawlicki

Headquartered in Madison, New Jersey, Wyeth is one of the largest research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare products companies in the world.

With products sold in more than 145 countries, Wyeth is truly a global healthcare leader. Dedicated to solving the world's most critical health problems, the company spent approximately $3.3 billion on research and development alone in 2007.

The company's corporate legal department, also located in Madison, employs some 350 law firms, including 90 e-billing firms, to help it provide legal services to Wyeth's far-reaching global operations.

When the time came to upgrade its legal management system, the department chose Mitratech's TeamConnect with Collaborati Spend Management (CSM), a fully integrated electronic matter and billing management system.

Key to the decision was Mitratech's ability to combine matter management and e-billing into a single, tightly integrated system. Through TeamConnect CSM, Wyeth was able to:

• Establish a "paperless" working environment by allowing law firms and vendors to submit electronic bills in their own format and at no cost;

• Quickly and easily transition law firms out of its legacy e-billing system and into TeamConnect CSM;

• Establish or revise automated billing guideline rules within the tool without third-party assistance;

• Streamline its invoice review process, which reduced payment disputes and delays;

• Automatically flag and return non-compliant law firm invoices;

• Create up-to-the-minute budget and spend reports on a firm-by-firm basis;

• Integrate matter management/e-billing with document management and other legacy systems.

Combined System

Prior to TeamConnect, Wyeth employed separate matter management and e-billing systems which required its attorneys to switch between applications to access critical data.

"We have roughly 140 internal users and to properly review invoices they need to access additional, relevant matter information," explains Dexter Carpenter, director of law financial operations and systems. "To review an invoice for a certain matter, you had to go out of the e-billing system and into the matter management application. We wanted a combined matter management and e-billing solution that could also integrate with our document management system."

The department also had a strong desire to "go paperless" by securing a system that would allow any law firm (or vendor) to submit invoices electronically without having to pay a third-party fee or change the format of their invoice.

"Our legacy e-billing vendor had a cost structure that made it difficult or impractical for the smaller law firms we do business with to submit invoices electronically. Since we use a lot of small law firms, we were still getting a lot of paper invoices," explains Claudio Crisafulli, associate director, corporate and HR information systems. "TeamConnect CSM allows us to open the electronic submission option up to firms that otherwise would not be able to participate."

Transitioning from the legacy e-billing system to TeamConnect CSM was easy - both for Wyeth and its law firms.

On the law firm side, the set-up took, on average, about 20 minutes. After registering with Mitratech, each firm was provided with a Quick Start instruction guide along with its approved timekeepers file. The firm's representatives followed an easy-to-use wizard application that walked them through the set-up process. At Wyeth, Mitratech Support was on hand to help with the implementation.

"It was pretty easy. We created an approved timekeeper file from our legacy system and sent it to the firm; they established an account in CSM and then uploaded the file into Collaborati," Crisafulli says. "On our end, the mapping function automatically matches each timekeeper ID to the contact card in TeamConnect CSM. It took about four to six weeks to get all of our primary law firms up and running. The rest, mostly smaller firms and vendors, will register when they need to send an invoice."

Submitting an invoice is easy too. The firm's representative simply logs onto the Collaborati portal and uploads the invoice in a standard LEDES format. Or, they can select a standardized form, scan the bill into a PDF file, attach it to the form and submit the invoice that way.

"Now our smaller law firms and vendors have options for submitting electronic invoices, which eliminates many of the barriers to e-billing that we've dealt with in the past," Crisafulli says.

Billing Guidelines

The previous e-billing vendor also made it difficult to manage and customize the billing rules in-house. Rule changes had to be made by the vendor on Wyeth's behalf and, depending on the complexity of the change order, that could take anywhere from two weeks to two months. With TeamConnect CSM, the legal department can make the change itself.

"You can get as detailed or creative as you want," Crisafulli says. "We have the flexibility to manage fee and expense rules at many different levels. We can now set rules for key programs by vendor or activity based on a business need. In the past it was all or nothing. We had no tactical options."

TeamConnect CSM also allows Wyeth to customize invoice error codes, which simplifies the invoice submission process.

"With our legacy system, if someone called us to discuss a problem with an invoice submission, we had very little visibility into the nature of the problem if the invoice did not make it into our system. The only information we saw was cryptic error codes that made it difficult for Wyeth staff to help trouble shoot the issue." Crisafulli says. "Now we create our own descriptions and have better visibility into the entire process which makes it much easier for Wyeth staff to assist our firms."

That, in turn, reduced the amount of time Wyeth staff spends assisting firms and remediating issues.

"The level of information available for transmission back to the firms and the timeliness of the delivery of that data is another key component in reducing the burden on Wyeth staff," Crisafulli explains. "Adjustment information and attorney notes are automatically sent back to the firms through the interface which helps to streamline the overall process."

Once the invoice is approved, TeamConnect automatically tracks it through to payment. A law firm wishing to check the status can do so by logging onto Collaborati.

"We explained to our law firms that they would benefit from this system as well,'" Crisafulli says. "Bills get to our attorneys sooner. They're reviewed, processed and paid sooner. We've made the process more manageable and efficient."

Financial Reporting

Streamlining the invoice work flows has also given Wyeth the ability to monitor outside counsel expenditures in real time and create more accurate legal budget and spend reports.

Executive dashboards, for example, feature links that allow Wyeth management to view the department's overall outside counsel spend, or budget/spend data on a law firm by law firm basis.

"E-billing lets you slice and dice spend information in many different ways. Doing that with the old system was cumbersome. You had to pull the data out (of the matter management and e-billing systems) and put it into spread sheets," Carpenter says. "When you merge data from two different systems, there's a chance you may overlook something or leave something out. With TeamConnect, the entire process is simplified because everything is in one place."

Wyeth is in the process of developing other applications as well. For example, a new process will automate the way outside counsel budgets are submitted, reviewed and approved.

"First, Wyeth will provide the format needed to submit a budget proposal," Crisafulli explains. "Then Wyeth can upload an approved budget file to the corresponding matter by firm. This allows for real-time budget comparison during the invoice review process."

All of which will help the department continue to streamline its internal processes and improve the level of services it provides to internal clients.

"We have good relationships with our law firms and we want to keep it that way," Crisafulli concludes. "Collaborati makes it easy for law firms to submit invoices and easy for our attorneys to review them. If the invoice meets the billing guidelines and is approved, it gets paid. If there are questions about a bill, we know exactly where it is in the workflow and can take the appropriate action."

Dexter Carpenter , a financial management professional for over 25 years, is responsible for the financial operations of the General Law Department of Wyeth. This includes financial analysis, cost control, spend analysis, billing operations and process re-engineering. For the past four years Mr. Carpenter has been involved in implementing and restructuring the processes and systems to track, analyze and control outside legal spend. His goal is to provide a complete electronic legal management environment that reduces cost and provides key decision-making information to the general counsel and legal leadership team. Claudio Crisafulli , an information technology professional for over 18 years, is responsible for the development and implementation of the global technology strategy and business applications for the Legal department at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. Mr. Crisafulli has spent the last five years focusing on the technology issues and trends impacting corporate legal departments. He is also responsible for the technology strategy and applications for the Corporate Public Affairs and Investor Relations groups.

Scott M. Gawlicki is a freelance writer living in West Hartford, CT. He writes frequently about a variety of legal topics, including technology. He can be reached at s.gawlicki@ excite.com.

Please email the commentators at carpend@wyeth.com or crisafc@wyeth.com with questions about this article.