Clients want reasonable estimates of the overall cost of a matter and expect their attorneys to implement internal controls to manage to those estimates. Baker Donelson accomplishes this by employing BakerManage to develop reliable engagement budgets. The term "reliable" is not used lightly here – it refers to a thoughtful budget analysis which evaluates the scope of work, identifies tasks for all timekeepers and provides estimated time to complete those tasks. This process clarifies expectations between the client and the legal team before the work begins. Once established, the budget provides the client with a predictable estimate of the legal budget for the matter and provides Baker Donelson with a tool to manage the time required for the project.
Baker Donelson created its own unique budgeting tool, Budget Designer, to address the needs of both the attorney and the client. Budget Designer guides attorneys to design a more reliable estimate of the work to be performed, resulting in budgets which are also immediately portable to BakerManage for monitoring. Budget Designer also interacts with the Firm's financial system to provide real-time reporting on legal spend.
With Budget Designer, Baker Donelson has developed an extensive list of budget templates and playbooks which span a variety of practice areas for both business and litigation matters. Attorneys have access to hundreds of existing matter-specific budgets as well as budget templates to help streamline the process. Playbooks are also readily available which serve as best practices guides for specific areas of work from file opening to file closing. They include task lists, budget templates with time estimates and recommended resource allocations, and assumptions and potential risks. Use of the guidelines contained in these templates can result in immediate cost savings to the client.
- Client: A corporate legal department which had requested a template budget for all matters within a single portfolio of litigation.
- Problem: The client sought to obtain more predictability in its legal spend on a portfolio of repetitive cases, but had insufficient information to develop a reasonable fixed or flat fee proposal.
- Solution: Since there was insufficient information to develop a pricing proposal, Baker Donelson recommended the development of budgets at the outset of every engagement to be used as a management tool to control legal spend. We worked with subject matter expert attorneys to develop a budget for the entire life cycle of a case. The budget was developed at the phase, task and resource levels to provide a reliable estimate of the work. Once a budget template was developed, it was compared against historical information to confirm the phase-level cost estimates. The revised budget was then provided to in-house counsel for comment and approval. Since the template was approved, the budget has been used at the outset of any engagement as a guideline for the work to be performed in the case. If modifications are required due to unique issues, a revised template is submitted for approval. The budgets are loaded into BakerManage so that budget-to-actual reconciliation can be provided for all cases.