As you make out your Christmas list, you might want to include updating your company’s litigation and billing guidelines on that list. This would especially be needed if your company litigation or billing guidelines have not been updated since the first George Bush was President. If it has been that long, you are likely making your company is an easier target for overbilling than your more progressive competitors who are working with more updated litigation and billing guidelines.
Just like the business world, the law business has changed a lot in the last 20 years.
Many law firms no longer have secretaries. Computer assisted research programs that were once expensive to use are now free to many lawyers who belong to bar associations.
Attorneys coming out of law school are joined at the hip with their computers. They do much, if not all of their own word processing. E-mails instead of letters are now the main source of communication among lawyers and even with the courts.
Law firms often outsource their work just like the rest of business. (See “Outsourced Legal Work = Outsized Law Firm Profits.”) Do you know if any of your legal or clerical work is being outsourced? If it is, is the firm billing you for its true costs of outsourcing or is the firm inflating the costs of the outsourced work?
What about travel time? Do you still pay an attorney’s full rate for travel on the belief that if they were not travelling for you for one hour, they would be in the office billing for that one hour? If you still believe that, you ignore studies that clearly show that attorneys can only bill 2 hours for every 3 hours bill they are in the office.
To give your company the gift of avoiding being an easy target for overbilling in 2012, resolve to update your litigation and billing guidelines. Here are some of many updates tha may be needed:
- The company retains individual lawyers only (not entire law firms).
- Any outsourced work should be billed at actual cost to the firm with no mark-ups.
- No payment for Lexis, Westlaw or other electronic or computer assisted research.
- Reduced fees for travel.
- No fees for preparing form letters and pleadings.
And the list of needed updates goes on.
Changes are now coming more quickly in the legal profession. To stay ahead, insurers need to not just follow, but stay ahead of the curve when it comes to making sure their litigation and billing guidelines are relevant to reflect the new realities in the legal world. If nothing else, periodic changes in litigation and billing guidelines send a clear signal to outside counsel (and internal staff) that the company is serious about controlling its outside legal expense.
So, since we are in the season of giving, give your company a present for 2012 and resolve to update your litigation and billing guidelines. And, if you want to make sure that your guidelines have all the updates that are needed to elminate overbilling and are fully compatible with an attorney’s ethical duties, please feel free to call upon me for assistance. Sorry that I cannot quite make this work my gift to you. But I think you will find that my costs are as close as you can get to the costs of having Bob Cratchit work for you.
Happy Holidays to all!