The LEDES Oversight Committee is pleased to release draft version 2 of the API Specification for public comment.
The API is intended to enhance and automate system-to-system communication while maintaining historic detail and functionality standards. It is based on data exchange and machine processing, not complex file exchange with manual (human) intervention. The JSON objects and invoice automation design provide enhanced functionality. Multiple objects support data exchange for invoice modification, status reporting, and payment documentation for automated invoices as well as parsed LEDES 98BI and XML 2.2.x format files. The remaining objects, such as business, vendor, matter, and timekeeper objects, provide the basis for the production and management of automated invoices.
The LEDES Oversight Committee has provided the following draft documentation for review as part of the public comment period:
- Informational slide deck regarding the API v.2 draft specification: LEDES API Subcommittee Overview Aug 2023
- API Draft Specification: LEDES API Specification V2 - DRAFT for review
The public is invited to provide feedback on the draft specification through and including October 31, 2023 by using this link. Please download and review the above documentation prior to starting the public comment survey.
The LEDES Oversight Committee will present two webinars on the API v.2 draft specification:
- Monday, September 18, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern: LEDES Oversight Committee API V.2 : Automated Invoice Creation. To register for this webinar, click here.
- Thursday, September 21, 2023 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern: LEDES Oversight Committee API v.2 : Invoice Actions. To register for this webinar, click here.
Why an API
First introduced in the late 1990s, legal ebilling is an essential tool for legal organizations that refer matters for handling to outside counsel. A standard was created in 1998 to facilitate the exchange of data points appearing in a paper invoice. But how this original simple standard has been implemented by the numerous ebilling vendor systems and by clients using those systems is widely divergent. Ebilling has become even more complicated with the spread of the discipline globally. Meeting the data and other requirements associated with electronic invoicing, particularly with regard to taxes, has been challenging.
Middleware systems are now available to assist with administering the legal ebilling function, making the workflow much more efficient. This requires fewer employees to meet a much heavier workload. These systems are indeed impressive and provide remarkable functionality; however, they may not be accessible to smaller law firms or global firms lacking traditional Western-style time and billing systems with e-billing capabilities.
Unfortunately, the number of tasks required to ebill in the course of a billing month has exploded, requiring law firms to expand their billing staff to keep up with an increasingly unmanageable workflow.
The idea for creating an API was the suggestion of Nicholas Puschak, a member of the LEDES Board of Directors, in 2018. He envisioned a process that would facilitate system to system transmission of ebilling and other data required by law departments and other legal organizations that mandate their legal vendors to ebill. The original idea was that an API should allow law firm time and billing applications to communicate directly with the corporate legal department matter management and ebilling systems. This would, in turn, allow law firm billing clerks to work within their time and billing applications to view the status of an invoice and to submit invoice, accruals and other legal data from within a single application without needing manual processing. Nick led the effort working with a diverse group of subcommittee volunteers. In February, 2020 version 1 of the API was released by the LOC.
Per our records, only one law firm system, BILR by LSG, has implemented v.1 of the API; no ebilling vendors have implemented the standard.
Work began on version 2 of the API in June 2020, again under the leadership of Nick Puschak. The mandate was to look at issues noted in the original version and expand the functionality of the API. Sadly, Nick’s retirement required a change in leadership before version 2 was finalized. Beginning March 2023, the new Co-Chairs were identified as Sherry Askin and Robert Kraai. Since March, a much smaller group has been meeting to work on the API v.2 functionality.
Similar to API v.1, API v.2 utilizes JSON, an open standard file and data exchange format. JSON is a simple and universal way to organize and store the data.
API v.2 changes the name of some objects traditional to legal ebilling; such as “business” not “client” and “vendor” not “law firm”, and reimagines the legal ebilling invoice structure (it is not visibly a relational database structure, instead it uses machine logic), and includes an automated JSON invoice format.
The updated draft v.2 specification includes the following functionality:
- The ability for businesses to provide their information; for vendors to get information on all businesses within the system that require them to ebill; and for vendors to get information on a specific business requiring them to ebill.
- The ability for vendors to provide their information; the ability for businesses to get information on vendors they require to ebill; and to get information on a specific vendor.
- The ability to send or get location information.
- The ability for businesses to send limited matter information; for vendors to get a list of matters assigned to their firm; and for vendors to get information on a specific matter.
- The ability for vendors to send timekeeper profile information and to request profile information for a specific timekeeper.
- The ability for vendors to send timekeeper rate information and to request rate information, including the status of rate approval, for a specific timekeeper.
- For LEDES Invoice files, the ability to send an invoice, accrual or shadow invoice; the ability for the vendor to resubmit or replace an invoice; the ability of the vendor to send or get an invoice attachment; the ability of the business to send and for a vendor to get the status of an invoice; the ability of the business to send and for a vendor to get payment information; and the ability of a vendor to delete an invoice that has not yet been reviewed by the business.
- A new JSON ebilling format for use only by the API that includes the following functionality:
- The ability of the vendor to submit an automated invoice, and to get id information on invoices sent.
- For invoices (LEDES formatted or JSON automated invoice), the following functionality is available:
- The ability of the vendor to query the status of a specific invoice.
- The ability of the vendor to resubmit an invoice.
- The ability of the vendor to appeal an invoice.
- The ability of the business to provide adjustment information on an invoice.
- The ability for the vendor to send an invoice attachment, for the vendor get a list of invoice attachments, or for the vendor to get a specific invoice attachment.
- The ability of the business to send the invoice status, for the vendor to get a list of invoice statuses or for the vendor to get information on a specific invoice status.
- The ability for the business to send and the vendor to get invoice payment information.
- The ability of the vendor to delete an invoice that has not yet been reviewed by the business.
LEDES Oversight Committee will offer webinars to review the functionality of the API while the public comment period is underway. See above for more information.
All feedback provided during the public comment period will be reviewed and, if necessary, changes will be made to the standard. Then the subcommittee will submit the API version 2 standard for process review by the LEDES Standards Director and approval by the LEDES Board of Directors.
Once ratified, the LEDES Oversight Committee (LOC), working with LogicShark, will make a test platform available to test the API connections:
- From the law firm, submitting or requesting the various information within the test environment (client, law firm, matters, timekeepers, etc.) outlined by the LOC
- To the ebilling vendor systems, receiving invoices of the different file types and other types of requests within the test environment (client, law firm, matters, timekeepers, etc.) outlined by the LOC.
The testing platform will be made available to vendors creating the API functionality for free for a period of five years.