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How to Make Sense of UTBMS Codes

Uniform Task-Based Management System (UTBMS) codes make detailed spend reporting possible by ensuring that each task and expense is categorized. That way, when you notice in Q1 that spending is out of control, you’re able to identify and solve the problem before Q4. Of course, in order for reporting to be accurate, you must first fully understand UTBMS codes and how to use them.

What are UTBMS Codes?

UTBMS codes are a set of codes maintained and developed by the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard (LEDES) Oversight Committee. UTBMS Codes were designed to standardize the categorization of legal services and expenses so that legal work and the associated costs could be easily identified and analyzed. You can learn more about the LEDES file format here.

UTBMS codes are used in many legal systems around the world, including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. For this article, we will focus on UTBMS standards set by the American Bar Association, which were created in 1997.

American Bar Association UTBMS Codes

In order to track and understand legal spending and associated activities, the proper ABA task codes must be assigned to each bill. When used consistently, UTBMS codes allow you to monitor legal spending by categorizing each activity or expense.

All ABA UTBMS codes are broken into categories and phases. Categories are identified by the beginning letter (e.g., L for ABA litigation codes) while phases are specified by the number (100s for phase 1, 200s for phase 2, etc.).

While some UTBMS codes are fairly self-explanatory, others require a deeper explanation. We’ll walk you through all of the ABA UTBMS codes, and provide more insight when necessary.

Activity

Activity codes identify the type of activity associated with a cost.

Although not all clients require the use of UTBMS activity codes, this code set is useful for segmenting specific types of work. For instance, the four separate communication codes ensure more accurate spend tracking for both the counsel and the client. In situations where you may need to consult with an expert as well as outside counsel, codes A108 and A107, respectively, would allow you to categorize time spent on each type of communication.

Bankruptcy

Derived from the code set published by the U.S. Department of Justice, bankruptcy UTBMS codes are intended only for bankruptcy matters. All adversarial tasks are covered by the litigation code set. The 21 bankruptcy ABA task codes are broken up into four phases.

B100 Administration

UTBMS codes in the B100 phase include administrative work during preparation, such as research, fee applications, and communication with creditors.

B200 Operations

B200 codes cover business matters, such as document review, employee benefits, cash collaterals, real estate, and tax issues.

B300 Claims and Plan

The B300 codes are used for all work related to claim inquiries and preparing disclosure statements and business plans.

B400 Bankruptcy-Related Advice

All advice, analyses, and consultations related to bankruptcy matters fall under the B400 code set.

Counseling

Counseling is one of the broader categories of UTBMS codes. This code set is designed to cover time used by attorneys preparing to provide legal advice. Generally, the counseling ABA task codes do not attribute time to a specific matter. Instead, they serve as a catchall for time spent on research throughout a monthly billing period.

Expense

Expense UTBMS codes help with budget tracking by categorizing types of spending.

Expense UTBMS codes are generally combined with a related activity code. For example, an invoice might include activity code A102 paired with expense code E101. A102 categorizes the time spent researching, while E101 specifies money spent on printing copies of that research.

This code set not only facilitates educated budget planning but also simplifies the process of submitting attorney expenses.

Litigation

ABA litigation codes are broken into five phases and encapsulate the entire litigation process.

L100 Case Assessment, Development, and Administration

During the initial stages, L100 codes could be combined with activity UTBMS codes. For example, A106 (Communicate with client) might be paired with L110 or L120 because client communication would help formulate the litigation strategy.

L200 Pre-Trial Pleadings and Motions

Expense codes often accompany L200 codes, such as E112 (Court fees) associated with filing for class certification (L260) or filing a pleading (L210).

L300 Discovery

L400 Trial Preparation and Trial

This phase also calls for the use of expense fees, such as E114 (Witness fees) when interviewing an expert witness (L420).

L500 Appeal

Project

For non-litigation matters, project codes are used for administrative filings, transactions, and stand-alone projects. The project code set includes eight phases.

Codes within the P200 phase are used for time spent on fact investigation, document retrieval, and preparation of reports with clients. They also cover coordination with third parties related to these activities.

Each P200 UTBMS code designates time spent on fact investigation/due diligence from a specific perspective, such as tax or environmental.

P300-P800 make up the additional codes within this phase.

Workers’ Compensation

The workers’ compensation code set was not originally included but was defined by a 2010 ratification. Many tasks include a “Commentary & Practice Tips” subset that shares the same code as the parent task. For example, WC 110 could refer to Fact Investigation/Development or the Commentary & Practice Tips related to that task.

This UTBMS code set includes a total of five phases and 27 ABA task codes. For the sake of brevity, we will provide a high-level description of each phase. It’s important to note that the Workers’ Compensation code set does not include phase-level parent tasks (WC 100, WC 200, WC 300, etc.)

WC 100 phase: All actions related to researching the case matter, strategizing, consulting with experts, and settlements.

WC 200 phase: Time spent preparing and filing pleadings, conferences with judge, negotiating alternative fee arrangements.

WC 300 phase: Time spent on all discovery motions, document production/acquisition, and depositions.

WC 400 phase: Time spent on preparing for and communicating with witnesses, drafting written motions, and preparing for and attending hearings.

WC 500 phase: Time spent on all appellate proceedings.

Easily Track Legal Spend by UTBMS Code with SimpleLegal

With SimpleLegal, invoices using UTBMS codes can be easily ingested to help customers better categorize outside counsel activity and track spend at a more granular level. Custom task, activity, and expense codes can also be used if your department leverages them.

When invoices are categorized, you can run standard or ad-hoc reports for matter-level comparisons of legal spend by task code as well as other insights, such as views into spend by tasks for your practice areas or specific vendors. SimpleLegal also provides a Spend Dashboard that quickly identifies your top task codes in use and provides information about average rates and how much was billed to each task code.

UTBMS codes make detailed reporting possible while also allowing you to enforce billing guidelines and control spending. By using UTBMS codes in SimpleLegal, you can set limits and create warnings associated with specific codes so that expenses can be automatically approved, rejected, or adjusted.

Start Using UTBMS Codes to Streamline Spend Management

Modern and intuitive, SimpleLegal provides all of the financial tools legal teams need to easily categorize spending, run detailed reports, enforce billing guidelines, and analyze budgets. Schedule a demo to see how you and your team can leverage SimpleLegal to gain total visibility into your legal spend.