I have long advocated the use of budgets in larger legal matters. Many firms, it seems, are loathe to consider the idea. Not all. UK firm Wragge&Co has filed for a US patent on a case budgeting system. 

Over the years, I have spoken to many lawyers about the potential planning and communication advantages of using budgets to help manage cases. On the planning side, a budget helps a lawyer manage a case by forcing him or her to think systematically about the key upcoming tasks and the resources necessary to accomplish those tasks. The budget need not be fancy; it could be a simple spreadsheet with 5 to 25 rows and a couple of columns. On the communication side, the lawyer can share the budget with the client to explain how the case may unfold and at what cost. At periodic intervals (weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on the case intensity), the lawyer could do a “variance analysis” for the client, that is, explain why some items came in higher or lower than budgeted, which is an excellent tool to keep the client informed about case activity.

Wragge&Co seems to see the value in budgeting for they have sought a US patent application for a system that “allows the firm to scientifically cost and manage any case or transaction using historical data. ” The firm’s March 1, 2004 press release continues, explaining that their “MIDAS” system has

“three distinct functions; quoting, scoping and management. The quoting function allows the fee earner to obtain critical information on all the key financial drivers based on historical matters. This has already proved useful in the firm’s litigation cases where multiple outcomes can be predicted. Using the scoping function, MIDAS will automatically structure the team. The management module allows the transaction to be scientifically managed against budget ensuring that clients have absolute certainty in fee quotes.”

I first spotted this item on Legal Technology Insider; for additional news coverage of this, see Wragge’s Midas touch in the LawGazette and Wragges seeks to patent software in Legal Week.