Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard

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The Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard is a set of file format specifications intended to standardize bill/invoice data transmitted electronically ("e-billed") from a law firm to a corporate client. It is abbreviated LEDES and is usually pronounced as "leeds".

LEDES was developed by the LEDES Oversight Committee (LOC), which was formed by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Law Firm and Law Department Services Group. Members of the committee include law firms, corporate legal departments, electronic billing vendors and time and billing software vendors. The LOC was incorporated as a California non-profit mutual benefit corporation in 2000.

The file format has several variations:

  • LEDES 1998, the first "LEDES" format, created in 1998, but no longer in use.
  • LEDES 1998B, a pipe-delimited plain text file. The standard was adopted in 1998, and it is by far the more commonly used LEDES format. It lacks some flexibility, having a rigid structure. Another disadvantage of LEDES 1998B is that invoice-level data is repeated on every line item even though it is only needed once, as it does not vary per line. Many clients attempt to impose nonstandard customizations, thus defeating the purpose of having a standard. Nonetheless, law firms prefer it for its simplicity and familiarity.
  • LEDES 2000, adopted in 2000, is an XML format. Adoption of this newer standard has been slow. One advantage of LEDES 2000 is that although the structure is very well defined, the specification defines "extend" segments, allowing the insertion of client-specific fields without breaking the format or violating the standard.
  • LEDES 1998B-INTL (international), a pipe-delimited plain text file, based on the LEDES 1998B standard. This format was designed to accommodate legal bills generated outside of the United States. It includes all of the fields in the LEDES 1998B format, plus additional ones. The format was proposed in 2004 by the Legal IT Innovators Group (LITIG). The LEDES Oversight Committee (LOC) ratified the format in 2006.
  • XML E-Billing version 2, ratified in 2006 but yet to see adoption, is intended to improve upon LEDES 2000.
  • XML E-Billing version 2.1 improves upon version 2.
  • LEDES Budget Standard was ratified in 2006. This XML format is intended to facilitate the exchange of budget data between law firms and clients.
  • Timekeeper Attribute Standard is a proposed XML format intended to be used to transmit timekeeper and rate data to from law firms to clients.

Many clients using LEDES use Uniform Task-Based Management System, a legal task classification system.

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