After (more than) numerous times of trashing on task codes in pricing presentations, a few people prodded me into doing something about it. In those presentations on pricing, the topic of task codes would always come up. I suggested that maybe task codes aren’t the place to start when focusing on pricing, budgeting, etc. Instead we would start by setting standards for the type of work being performed. In other words, you should understand what type of matter is involved before you worry about task or other segments of work under that level.

The next question was: How do we develop and maintain a standard?

Having been involved in developing the e-filing standards for courts some years ago, I had some experience with the topic. What is needed is an independent body that includes key stakeholders from the industry. For legal this would include clients, lawyers (and law firms), and providers (of technology, consulting, etc) as the core stakeholders, followed by associations, academia, government and others. A successful standards effort must balance the needs of the key stakeholders or it will not be adopted.

As well, the independent body needs to protect and preserve the IP for both the contributors and for the standards themselves. Participants are wise to be cautious about contributing their IP to a standard when there are no protections from having competitors unfairly use that IP.

So the combination of an open, community based group, along with an IP framework are necessary components of a successful standard. The other primary need is the ability to market the standard so it gets wide adoption.

Given all of this, a group convened to explore whether there was enough need and support to move forward with establishing such a standards body. The response was an overwhelming YES. The initial group included people from the three primary stakeholders, plus association representatives.

The result is the SALI Alliance. SALI is short for Standards Advancement for the Legal Industry.

SALI was initially funded (graciously) by the LMA and the ALA. These two organizations saw the compelling need to establish a standards body and stepped up with seed money to get it started. These two organizations also present great opportunities to market standards via their existing membership outreach abilities. Going forward, SALI will be a member driven effort, involving those organizations that see the tremendous value in such an effort.

As noted above, the first standard will be on matter types (also known as area of law codes). From there, other standards can be proposed and driven through to published status. We already have a few ideas in the queue, and expect more to come as people think about various aspects of the profession that will benefit from standards.

I highly recommend you learn more about SALI. The recent press release announcing SALI notes the numerous organizations involved and supporting the effort. The next in-person meeting of the group will be in Chicago on May 14th, the Monday leading into the P3 Conference.


PS: I would be remiss in not thanking the core team of people who have been driving this effort. They include: Adam Stock, Jim Hannigan, Keith Lipman, Justin Ergler, Mark Medice, Betsi Roach (from the LMA) and Oliver Yandle (from the ALA).