Episode 6, The Next Phase of Legal Bill Review Transcript
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Wesley Todd [00:07]: This is the litigation management podcast. And I’m your host, the CEO of CaseGlide, Wesley Todd. The litigation management podcast is where I interview some of the most successful and influential people in and around the claims litigation space. And as you know, from the previous episodes, we’re trying to get you the best of the best guests. That’s our agenda, because the focus is on delivering as much value to our audience, which happens to be attorneys, adjusters, and claims execs. We’re trying to get you the most valuable information we can and we’re going for home runs. We’re trying to get the people that are most influential that are having the biggest impact or have the best perspectives. I have some unbelievable guests lined up and I’ve had some unbelievable guests. Today is no exception. Today on the podcast, I have Allan Rotlewicz, and Allan is a Partner at Rumberger, Kirk and Caldwell.
Wesley Todd [00:58]: He’s going to tell you more about his background because it’s extremely relevant to the topic today: how claims organizations are trending away from just e-billing or an automated or outsourced bill review approach and towards a holistic view of attorney performance. So, in other words, instead of just looking at getting the least expensive lawyers, looking at the best performing lawyers. It’s a trend going on across the industry. Allan and I are going to dig deep into it. Before I pass it off to Allan and officially welcome him and give him an opportunity to tell us about his background, I’m just going to set the stage real quick. We’re going to use the words e-billing, bill review, and automated bill review interchangeably. What we’re talking about is really two different things.
Wesley Todd [01:51]: E-billing is just the technology, but we may use it interchangeably with bill review or different things like that. What we’re really talking about is the industry and software, and then the people and third parties that will review the lawyer’s bills. So, hey, if this topic is not for you, you can shut it down. Now for most attorneys and adjusters, this is their lives every day. But we are going to use those words, interchangeably, bill review, e-billing all those different things. But what we’re talking about is the industry’s use of software and humans to give lawyers like Allan, a hard time over their time, the time they spend in six-minute increments. So. bear with us on this topic. Allan, welcome to the litigation management podcast. I’d like you to give us a little bit about your background origin story.
Allan Rotlewicz [02:47]: Sure. Thank you very much for having me. I was an associate at Rumberger Kirk’s Miami office for over six years before I joined Anchor Insurance in St. Petersburg. I moved up to St. Petersburg in 2017 and joined Anchor Insurance as their general counsel. I spent about three and a half years with Anchor managing their claims litigation as well as some other issues. And in September of 2020, I rejoined Rumberger Kirk in Tampa as a partner. So, this is really an important topic for me. I’ve worked on both sides of it.
Wesley Todd [03:27]: Hey, we appreciate you having you. This is a unique opportunity. You’ve been on both sides, so you understand what a corporation is going through when they get those bills in. And then you also understand the lawyer’s plight, as they’re trying to provide as good as service as they can to the corporation. So, the thing we’re seeing Allan, and we saw it with you guys and we’ve seen it with so many others is that, I’m just going to throw this out there, E-billing and bill review, isn’t really saving companies money. There’s a savings component where they say we reduce the bills this much. But the insurance company or the corporation, they pay checks, and those checks either go up or they go down, right? And if you talk to most companies with e-billing, those checks are going up. Because those checks have much more to it than just an individual invoice. If legal bill review and e-billing isn’t saving insurance companies money or saving claims organizations money, tell me if you’ve seen that and why you think that is because it’s counterintuitive to what we’ve been told.
Allan Rotlewicz [04:42]: Sure. And I think what’s most important to look at is the big picture, and as you’ve said, a holistic approach to managing the case. I think bill reviews are sometimes causing the best lawyers not to handle the files because what you end up seeing is the attorneys on the defense side, they’re spending a lot of time dealing with how to word the billing entry or appealing billing entries, as opposed to spending time litigating the file and working the file towards resolution. You end up spending a lot more time dealing with billing, as opposed to “let’s shorten the life of file, let’s identify the file, let’s work the file, and let’s move it towards closure, whether it’s settlement or trial or motion for summary judgment”. And that’s really where are you going to find the best attorneys is the ones who can spend the time litigating the case, not spending time appealing billing entries.
Wesley Todd [05:40]: So let’s just open it up a little bit more. Allan, you get an invoice back first-round review, and it has, let’s say it has 20-line items. So, you work the file decently. You maybe had some event, you did an update, you traveled to it, you reviewed some things beforehand. What’s a common scenario that can get frustrating for how many of those things are appealed? And just give us an idea how many of those you have to do a week or a month or a day, or whatever you want to look at. And then let’s just start there and then I’m going to ask you, well, what happens next? Is it all done or what, you know? So just put us in your shoes for a minute.
Allan Rotlewicz [06:32]: Sure. And I think the interesting question you asked is what do you have to do? Because you may end up getting a bill appeal for a file that has already settled or for work that was being done 2, 3, 4 months ago. And the appeal is going to require you to locate the document or locate the email. Sometimes the tasks, those documents sometimes it’s, you know, did you have client approvals? And now you’re going back in and looking for that email around the day of the billing entry that approves something, or it’s “please attach a copy of the discovery response”. So, you’re going into the file, you’re attaching them, you’re explaining how long it took you to prepare that document, how many pages that document is. Sometimes you’re going through the claim file, especially in first-party property to say these were the specific documents I looked at.
Allan Rotlewicz [07:21]: Or these are the documents that were redacted. So, you’re spending a significant amount of time going back to what may have been done three or four months ago. And as I said, sometimes you’re going back to a case that has already settled to deal with these issues. It’s time-consuming. And I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the client. Having spent time on that side, as well when I was with Anchor, because the defense firm will appeal it. And if that appeal is being sent to someone other than the client, you’ll get a response back from the bill review entity. And then if the defense firm needs to escalate it from there, now they’re escalating it to the client. And somebody at the insurance company now has to spend time reviewing it potentially for a second and third time to figure out what happened. So, you know, it’s not just the potential increased costs for the insurance company, but it’s also the usage of employees at the insurance company that may be spending time that can be better used somewhere else.
Wesley Todd [08:26]: So that’s interesting. So, in a percentage of cases, a lot of this seemingly was outsourced, right? So, you seemingly used the third party. You know, the software comes with a third party, bill review humans. They review it, but it still winds up a lot of times in the hands of the claims organization. Anyway. So there goes that efficiency you’re saying?
Allan Rotlewicz [08:48]: Yeah, it comes back to the client at the end because the defense firm, the law firm is going to reach out and say, this got audited, we appealed it, we were unsuccessful, this is why this happened. You know, I had a conversation with the client, had a conversation with the litigation examiner who were on board for the strategy, and it normally will get resolved. And, you know, I’m happy to say, I think most law firms have good relationships with their clients that they can resolve these issues, but both sides ended up spending a lot of time making sure that they both are happy with the end result of a bill review.
Wesley Todd [09:27]: Yeah. And does that create a lot of friction between you and the customer as far does the adjuster then feel bad about the situation and just sort of, uh, you know, canceling out all that effort in the first place anyway, and giving you the, you know, giving you the point too, that you were looking for?
Allan Rotlewicz [09:50]: I don’t know if I would call it friction, but you do get to a point in time on both sides, right? The law firm has spent time reviewing the bill to remitting the bill. Then they get the appeal. Then they file responses to, to the appeal, or to the audit. On the insurance company side, sometimes the first person to review it is either the litigation examiner or a legal secretary. And they’ll raise the concern to a manager, a director to look at. And at the end of the day, you’ve spent a lot of time with a lot of different people trying to resolve what may be, as you said, a 0.2 or 0.3. And I think if you look at a holistic approach to what matters to the insurance company and to the law firm, it probably was not that.
Wesley Todd [10:37]: And are you, are you seeing what we’re seeing, which is a lot of these companies are coming to that realization? They are noticing that their legal spend keeps going up every year. Their settlement amounts are going up. Their cycle times are going up yet, for some reason, the provider is telling them they’re saving 6 or 8%, on their invoices or something like that. But everything’s going up. Are you seeing what we’re seeing, which is a lot of these companies now there seems to be what we’re calling a transition to litigation management, 3.0. 1.0 was you know, we rode over on a horse and handed them our letter from our feathery pen about the case. 2.0 was e-billing, right, which was, we all agree is just e-billing itself. Just the technology itself, allowing us to automatically upload and process and run just your basic validations against it, and then have that all digital, it’s extremely valuable.
Wesley Todd [11:38]: We’re talking about how that was extended to try to sell it further. So, that’s 2.0, and in 3.0, is this idea of the companies realizing that e-billing and bill review by itself isn’t actually saving any money. In fact, it’s using what you were just talking about, it’s actually costing them more money and more time than they’re now looking at just the outcomes. They’re looking at the settlement amount, they’re looking at the cycle time, and they’re looking at expense as a whole. They don’t care how the attorney really got there. If this attorney charges 20% less than the other, it gets the same result. Or even better, if they get a 20% better result, which is a much bigger number, all these companies that we’re seeing that we’re talking to (and we’re not talking to all of them obviously), but it seems that they’re all sort of seeing the light and moving towards 3.0, this more holistic approach to litigation management. Are you seeing that too with your clients?
Allan Rotlewicz [12:35]: I think so. And to your point, I think what’s most important is having the best possible lawyers get you the best possible result. And if you only look at the defense spent in a vacuum, you’re really not looking at the entire file. And one of the things I looked at when I was at Anchor, and one of the really important things I impress upon my team here at Romberger Curt, is to look at the big picture. And to me, the big picture is really three factors. It’s the life of the file. You know, how long from the day we got it until the day we were able to resolve it, whether that’s a settlement or a motion for summary judgment or, or a trial. And while we don’t have control over all of those things, a lot of most cases are going to settle, and let’s spend the time early to evaluate the case.
Allan Rotlewicz [13:26]: And that’s why when you look at defense spent in a vacuum, it doesn’t give you that picture. Because if a good lawyer spends extra time in the beginning, you really know the file and tell you, this is a settlement candidate, or this is a trial candidate for some sort of dispositive motion. That next number, the indemnity number, the settlement number is likely and should be lower. And really you want to look at, in my opinion, those three factors. Life of file, defense costs, and the settlement. And if you, you know, when you’re talking just about the monetary spent, if you combined the defense cost and the settlement, to me, that’s the more important number when you’re comparing your lawyers because a great lawyer may spend more time on the file that may get you better results. You may have someone spend less on defense costs, but if you’re settling the cases for more, that’s not a cost savings. So, it’s really important in my opinion, to look at both. And that’s where having a bill review company telling me I can save you 6 to 8% on defense costs, it doesn’t give me that truly holistic number in all the data I would need as a carrier to make the best decision.
Wesley Todd [14:41]: Yeah, that’s super, I think that’s really well put, I don’t really have too much to add to that, other than, you know, we’ve looked at it and across different lines of business, the settlement amount is 5 to 10 times larger than the expense amount. So, a 1% improvement in the settlement amount will get you a lot more than a 6 to 8% savings of the expense amount. Even assuming that’s what’s actually happening, which I think our data is showing us that legal expense is actually going up because you’re saving 6 to 8% on an invoice, but you’re getting more invoices because the cases are dragging on and on and on. And, you know, we’ve always looked at it as I don’t want to lower invoices, I want less invoices because if you can just cut the case off- zero. That’s a 100% savings of that last invoice.
Wesley Todd [15:39]: So, you know, the messaging from the bill review companies and messaging from the e-billing software. is that it’s very strong. It’s very easy to digest. It’s very easy to show because nobody’s putting their finger on the pulse of that total outcome. Um, and it sends the wrong message, right? To the law firms that if you’re only measuring the expense, well, then this is what happened to me as a lawyer, and maybe you have a similar story, but I remember getting a summary judgment in a case where we had hundreds of thousands in exposure. And that happened a bunch of times. I just remember one specific time where the adjuster said, yeah, but we spent $30,000, we saved like $300,000 and he was disappointed cause we spent 30,000 and it just, it just sends the wrong message. You’re going to get a bunch of losers as on your team if that’s the way you are managing litigation. So, you know, we’re finally seeing people wake up to that. I mean, maybe you, you probably have something to add to that if you’ve probably been to that a lot more than I have,
Allan Rotlewicz [16:42]: I think to your point, it is important on both sides to look at the big picture and getting a great result, winning a case, sends the right message. And sometimes there are costs involved in getting that great result. But if both the carrier and the law firm have all the information and they’re probably evaluating it and they have the data, then they can make that decision. So, to your point, you know, spending $30,000 to save 300,000, that sounds like a winner every day of the week to anyone. I think what’s important on both sides is this communication. And the more you communicate, the more you can tell a client even early on this may be a case to, to push. And this is what it’s likely going to cost you. And this is what we anticipate the case can settle for today.
Allan Rotlewicz [17:39]: And this is your potential full exposure. If we’re unsuccessful and were to lose a trial and having that data both on a case basis, as well as on a more global basis. What’s important is that the only way to get them on a global basis is to integrate all of your data. So, you have your defense spend, you have your average settlement, you know, who the lawyers are, they’re handling those cases potentially even know who the plaintiff’s lawyers are, and then you can make those decisions because to your point, the bigger picture it took to win that case, which is that plaintiff’s lawyer knows now that Wesley Todd not only can push a case, but he can win a case. And that’s important.
Wesley Todd [18:23]: Yeah. And the data will show that if you’re tracking the right data, I think you just raise a really good point. There that’s one component is that data, because what you were able to do. I remember over at Anchor that was the first question on the outcomes that people have as well, but not all two cases are the same, but what we were able to do was to build in all of the elements of the case from the plaintiff’s lawyer, to the track that we chose, whether it was a settlement candidate or a trial candidate to the venue, to the favorability level, you know, was this, do we have good facts or bad facts? And we actually were able to compare apples and apples. And then at the end of the quarter, you’d go to one firm and you’d say, look, I give you this type of case.
Wesley Todd [19:09]: I give you this type of case. You can’t argue with that. I promise the data tells you that because it’s exactly the same case. In fact, you told me that as a lawyer, you filled it into, in our, in our situation, CaseGlide. I didn’t fill it, you filled it in. You said this was a settlement candidate. You said we’re going to settle it quick. You said it was easy. And it was with the same lawyer. And you didn’t do as well as this one. So, who really cares about how we got there? You know, we’re going to move over to this firm where we don’t have to deal with e-billing. We don’t have to deal with getting .8 or .6 because the data just shows us that the end result, we’re going to get here is going to be better. So, I think you raise a really good point around the data because the data is there currently because lawyers are using these advanced systems, not just the insurance company, they don’t fill them in. The lawyers fill it in, and it can answer all those questions.
Allan Rotlewicz [20:00]: Yeah. And that makes a lot of sense. So that’s why it’s important to have good data. It’s important to have it maintained in a place where you can find it and you can have that at your fingertips. And when you separate resources for claims management and defense costs, you may not have that at your fingertips. So, one of the things I always enjoyed with CaseGlide was I can quickly put a finger on all those data fields, defense costs, settlement costs, life of file. And you look at that and you figure out who’s giving you the best results. You’re less worried about bill reviews. I’m not worried about a 0.2 or 0.3. Billing guidelines are important. I think it’s important to have those with your defense firm, but the relationship that you’re going to build between a client and a law firm is important. And if they’re giving you great results and they’re really working with you, and I think that’s, what’s so important, it’s both the carrier and the, and the law firm needs to work together. Uh, you, you can really see those great results.
Wesley Todd [21:06]: Yeah. I like that last part of working together. And I’m going to build on that because there’s also something else that you’ve done in your career that I think is really valuable. E-billing and bill review is after the fact, after the work is already done. Why are we using technology to look at things that have already happened when you could use technology to kind of tell you what we should do next and avoid it altogether. So, one of our principles that we have, and that’s being adopted by the industry that we’re seeing, let’s not have workflow technology for like all these amazing decision trees. And you see these companies now, I don’t know if you pay close attention, but all the e-billing companies, now they’re doing AI on the bill review. As if we need more technology.
Wesley Todd [21:55]: After the fact what we’re doing, what our clients are doing is they want it on the front end. So, they want to say, hey, if this is a settlement candidate, I want to see that get settled in 90 days. And if it doesn’t get settled, I want to get alerted. I want to see an offer go out. You know, if it’s a mediation, I want to see a mediation of board, 60 days in advance. I want all of that automated. I don’t want it to work to be, or let me give it even a better example. If it’s a settlement candidate, I don’t want discovery to be done. So, you won’t. So, the automated tasks won’t include discovery. There’s all these things that can be done in advance of the fact that currently, the insurance companies are only doing via their e-billing provider or their bill review provider after the work’s already been done.
Wesley Todd [22:45]: I mean, how frustrating is that with all the technology in the world, but these are all things that can be set. It’s a very basic decision tree that I think our kids could do, Allan. Where if it’s like this particular type of case, then you don’t have approval to do these things. And we don’t want you to do that work. And then us come back and tell you, yeah, you did it, but we’re not going to pay you for it. So, you know, you were able to do some of those things, some of those workflows, as we call them, where you’d set cases off on tracks and you expected certain things to be done. And you basically told the lawyers not to do the things so that they didn’t have to by mistake, do those things and then charge you for it after, right? I mean, you know, we, we got a little time here. Do you want to speak to the proactive nature that you’d like to get at before the work is already done?
Allan Rotlewicz [23:33]: Sure. And I think you summarized it. Well, we asked that what’s important is knowing the file and making a decision early on. And that goes back to a great lawyer. May spend more time in the beginning, digging through the claim file, digging through the records to understand what’s being presented to them. And the same way a sophisticated client is going to say, okay, now that you’ve told us, this is a Selma candidate, how do we get the best possible seller? And in Florida having a fee statute, maybe that’s getting an early demand. Maybe that is limiting discovery. Maybe that is delaying our response to the complaint. But by knowing the file, by being able to have a conversation with the client, with the litigation examiner and say, look, this is Selman candidate. What are your thoughts on delaying discovery or not responding to the complaint?
Allan Rotlewicz [24:34]: To me, they’re getting an extension of the time that having a settlement conversation, getting a desk review, if you need to, for damages, what’s the best possible way. And you have that conversation. So, then you’re not worried about discovery demands took a 0.5 instead of a 0.2. Instead, you built a strategy to really resolve the case. On the flip side, that you review a file, and you say, you know what? I see a summary judgment motion here. I see a trial candidate. What do we need to do to get it there quickly? And with the best possible defenses, let’s set depositions. And this is the order that we’re going to depose people. Let’s get out discovery, let’s ask specific questions. In that case, discovery demands may be very case-specific and may appear on a bill to have cost a little bit more than another case, but everybody knows why that was.
Allan Rotlewicz [25:32]: Everyone’s had that conversation that the law firm and the client had the conversation early on to say, we are going to serve very specific discovery to figure out this issue and flush this out. We’re going to subpoena these records. We’re going to take the deposition of these three or four individuals because that’s what’s going to give us the best possible defense. You’ve built that plan. In the first point of your 30 days, you have a plan in place. And no one’s surprised when they see a bill 45 days later, that these tasks were done. And that’s really what I think is important and how you can handle that if you have if you’re working together and you have great communication.
Wesley Todd [26:12]: Yeah, and you put your client hat on there. And what benefit is it to you? If they, you know, first of all, great that we have all the, we’re going to have automation built in to get a case closed and to stay on top of it. That’s 30 less things for an adjuster to do per month, you know, to be some manual alert system, which a lot of companies are still asking their adjusters to be when it’s all automatic and software, but so, so great that those cases now we’re going to reduce our pie chart of cases, working onto the ones that matter the most, the ones that actually have complexity. But now let’s talk about those. And, to your point, you put your client hat on. There’s a case that we said, this is a summary judgment candidate or a trial candidate, and what’s better for you as the client.
Wesley Todd [27:02]: Is it better for you to have to approve every single 15 steps along for mediation trial? And then, oh by the way by mistake, we missed three of them in this five of them. So now I have to go review all those bills and approve them down the road. Or is it better to just say this was on that track? Therefore, this is approved, right? And I don’t have to do anything. There’s no lift on my end. This was a summary judgment track of very rare track, right? And very small percentage of cases. And I don’t need to do 15 approvals and then 15 reviews to see if this third party, that knows nothing about the case, has never seen a word about the case, understands that this was something we mutually chose. So, I mean even putting your client hat on in that instance, it’s actually a lot less friction for the client, too, right?
Allan Rotlewicz [27:54]: Yeah. When I was at Anchor, our billing guidelines, and I think you and I joked when I first moved to Anchor, I told you I was gonna have billing guidelines that were one page, and you told me that was impossible. We were close, I think it ended up being two or three pages, but by having a great relationship with our law firms and now being on this side, having a great relationship with my client, there should be no issues with the bills. You know, billing guidelines are important because obviously when you’re the carrier, you want to get a file closed and that means paying the bills timely. Uh, and you want to kind of know what to expect. And maybe the billing guidelines are as simple as when the bills need to be submitted. Um, you know, there may be certain costs that need to be pre-approved.
Allan Rotlewicz [28:40]: And that makes sense because you don’t want to be surprised by an expert or significant travel. And you want to have conversations with your law firm. If a deposition is out of state, do you need to go there? Can you do it by zoom? Can you do it telephonically? What are your options here? But it’s those big-ticket items. It’s the big picture you want to look at. And when you have that trial candidate, you’ve already identified it and you know that the law firm isn’t taking advantage of you, and you feel competent that you have the best lawyers handling your case. And that’s how we felt an Anchor. So, we kept our guidelines short, and we had great relationships with the firms we used.
Wesley Todd [29:25]: Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. It’s not just litigation management where this is happening right, it’s everywhere. They sort of said, hey, we kind of had our finger on the wrong, sports is the one that comes up most right with baseball. I was like, oh, we’re just focused on home runs, but you know, on base percentage and war and, and those different stats that actually lead to wins more. Right? Cause that’s the whole point, right? You’re trying to get wins. Of course. And, basketball, once they got data involved, they said, why are we shooting every shot one foot in front of the three-point line? So, we’re basically, we were taking a very hard shot when the reward is only two points. When, if I take one step back, it could be three points.
Wesley Todd [30:09]: And then now in basketball, it’s all five people lined up on the three-point line. And then in football, it’s, you know, nobody runs a ball anymore. Everybody passes because, you know, not just the rules have changed a little bit, but also the data supports just throw the ball as much as possible. And I think we’re seeing the same thing with litigation management, where we know that expense isn’t for winners, like measuring expense is for losers. That’s like the people that aren’t paying close enough attention to the actual department. And it was a phenomenal advancement for so many reasons. 10, 15 years ago, e-billing. We were big beneficiaries of it. We definitely don’t want to email PDFs around, right?
Wesley Todd [31:05]: I mean, that’s, that’s mayhem. E-billing by itself, electronic billing and digital bills and digital invoice, and line items, and the validations you can run on that, and the reports you can run on that is extremely valuable, but it is not leading to wins. It’s leading to losses. At least that’s what we’re seeing as we convert customers over from that. And so, I just think that you brought a really good perspective you’re fair and balanced on both sides. And that was the goal for today, to try to give a fair report. And I think that we did that.
Allan Rotlewicz [31:42]: It was, thank you very much for having me.
Wesley Todd [31:45]: Yeah. No, thank you. And we should probably do it again. Uh, there’s plenty of topics like this that we can discuss. And I think this is really valuable, not everybody’s had the chance to be on both sides. You know, on the defense firm side and on the client-side and particularly general counsel where you report it up to the CEO, right?
Allan Rotlewicz [32:05]: Yes, sir.
Wesley Todd [32:06]: The CEO is sitting there saying, why did you know, the number here needs to go down, right? If you’re somebody tucked it away, you can get away with the, “our bill review is reducing people’s bills 6%”, but eventually once it goes up, it’s like, wait, but I don’t care about that. It’s our expenses are up 20%. So, you actually lived it. I think that the folks that are going to listen to the pod, tons of adjusters and attorneys if they had all the time and experience that we had would, they would have a lot, even more to add than we did. But it’s our job, the whole point of the Litigation Management Podcast, is to get this information to them. You’ve managed tens of millions in legal spend on both sides. It’s a great opportunity for them to see what’s going on in the broader world, from your eyes. So, I’m gonna leave it at this Allan, what’s the best way for an adjuster or an attorney or a claims executive to reach you and ask you more about your help with litigation management? I know you do strategic. You also, obviously handle a bunch of cases, too. Where can they find your work in a reach you Allan?
Allan Rotlewicz [33:21]: Sure, Wes. You can find my contact information on our website, www.Rumberger.com. Or you can email me directly. It’s arotlewicz@rumberger.
Wesley Todd [33:37]: Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing your story and your perspective. Hopefully, it saves the industry billions of dollars over the next 10 years. Let’s do it again soon now.
Allan Rotlewicz [33:29]: And thanks a lot, Wes.