ALA UPBMS Frequently Asked Questions


What is the ALA UPBMS?

The ALA’s Uniform Process Based Management System is a categorization (or “taxonomy”) of legal support operation processes.

What are “legal support operations?”

Legal support operations are all administrative and operational activities that facilitate or support the delivery of legal services, advice, and/or counsel in a direct or indirect manner.

Are the “administrative and operational activities” those performed by staff?

Primarily, yes, however attorneys and other legal professionals perform a variety of support functions as well. Personnel management, business development, and education and training activities are a few common examples.

Is the ALA UPBMS intended just for law firms?

No.  The ALA UPBMS is designed to be equally applicable to legal support operations regardless of the organization type (law firm, corporate legal department, etc.), the practice they support, the size or complexity of their organizational structure, or their geographic location.

How is the ALA UPBMS intended to benefit the entire legal industry?

Prior to the release of version 1 of the UPBMS, there was not a universally recognized standard of identifying and organizing administrative and operational processes within the legal industry. The ALA UPBMS created this standard.

The power of such a standard lies in the ability of organizations to utilize information and materials created by others, with little or no conformity.  This not only improves the speed and efficiency of innovation, but also assures data and analytics built on the standards is more accurate, relevant and comparable.

How are the ALA UPBMS code sets to be used?

The ALA UPBMS is not intended for use in a single defined manner. The code sets are intended to provide a foundation of process categories and descriptions to facilitate and enable legal management professionals, consultants, and analysts to develop or conform insightful tools and techniques that have universal application.  Also, while the entire UPBMS is quite extensive, it can be used in whole or in part to assess or optimize all or any part of a legal support operation.

What is a common application of the UPBMS?

A common application of the UPBMS is to track and analyze time spent on legal support operation.  In this context, the intention of the ALA UPBMS is to minimize multiple interpretations and options for coding, monitoring and analyzing time.  Because a standard like the UPBMS creates a “common language,” the ability to benchmark results against industry standards is greatly enhanced.

How can the ALA UPBMS be used by attorneys and other legal professionals?

While most commonly used to categorize and analyze the activities performed by support personnel, the ALA UPBMS is equally effective at describing the non-chargeable time performed by attorneys.  As the amount of non-chargeable time may be substantial, accurately identifying and analyzing that time is essential to its effective management.  The ALA UPBMS provides a framework for that analysis.

We don’t have analysts available.  Is the ALA UPBMS still useful to my organization?

The ALA UPBMS is designed to be equally applicable regardless of the legal support operations resources or level of sophistication - from those who want to only improve job descriptions, to those who have a well-developed analytic and assessment function but wish to improve one or more aspects of it.

Where did the idea for this project come from?

The ALA’s Professional Development Advisory Committee (PDAC) identified the need for improved methods of categorizing the association’s educational content. As the idea of an organizational structure took shape, it became apparent that there were applications far beyond what was originally conceived. After considerable research and planning, the ALA Board and leadership had the foresight to approve a formal project plan for the development of the UPBMS which not only meets the needs of the association, but creates a resource for the entire legal industry.

Who was involved with the UPBMS development?

The original version of the ALA UPBMS was created by a development team comprised of representatives from global legal operations, private law firms, legal consultants and functional specialists, under the leadership of William Mech, a legal industry consultant and veteran legal administrator.

Has the ALA UPBMS been validated?

As part of the standards development process, the ALA invited all individuals and organizations who are engaged in or support professional legal management activities, to review and comment on the initial codes. A portal was developed specifically to collect a broad range of input regarding the UPBMS.

How does the ALA UPBMS work in conjunction with other systems that have been developed, such as the UTBMS, created by the American Bar Association (ABA)?

Similar to the UTBMS and other standards development efforts in process across the legal industry, our goal is to avoid duplicative efforts, and whenever possible, have our codes work in symmetry with them.  Not only is that a more efficient approach, but it serves our greater goal of advancing the legal management profession.

Is the ALA UPBMS complete? 

No. The ALA UPBMS will continue to develop, reflecting the evolving nature of legal management and operations. Code sets will be added to reflect new functions being adopted across the industry. Future iterations are expected to expand upon and refine the standards reflected in the existing code sets.