Some “Shortcuts” to Take in Reviewing Legal Bills

In conducting my seminar “Reviewing Legal Bills Like a Pro©” for insurer claims staffs who review legal bills, I always note that there are three important and co-equal billing issues that need to be considered when reviewing every billed for task a legal bill.  I also note that each of the issues must be considered in a set order and I emphasize that it takes time to properly review legal bills.

Because so many insurers just like the rest of corporate America are trying to get by with fewer employees, it should come as no surprise that all employees are looking for shortcuts to take to help them ease their workloads.  Thus it is that I am often asked by adjusters if there are any shortcuts they can use in reviewing legal bills.

I always respond that there are some “shortcuts” they can take which will save them time.  I will cover two of those shortcuts in this post. One thing that they can do which may not necessarily seem like a shortcut in the short run, but will definitely save them time (and the company’s money) over the long run is to be sure to very carefully examine the first legal bill or two in a case.

While taking what may amount to some extra time to more carefully review the first bill or two may not sound like a shortcut when it comes to saving time (at least initially), it actually will save adjuster time in reviewing legal bills over the course of a case. Here’s why.

Catching attorney errors in billing early on in a case will signal to the attorney that you are alert and that they need to watch carefully what and how they bill. This is called the “sentinel effect” of legal bill review. This should mean that future bills will contain fewer or no billing errors and as a result, will take less time to review.   (If this is not happening, then you need to find another attorney who will follow your company’s billing guidelines.)

I know this will happen for a fact because I have seen this happen time and time again in my bill reviews for insurers. I have seen firms that start out with initial billing error rates in the 20% range drop dramatically to less than 2%.  And believe me, it takes far less time to review legal bills with less than 2% billing errors than it does for legal bills with 20% billing errors.

Another thing I tell adjusters to do initially that will help speed up review of later legal bills is to take the time ask questions they might have about an attorney’s initial legal bills.  In fact, if you read some of the discussion forums, attorneys want clients to contact them to discuss their legal bills.  So, if you do not understand some of their shorthand references, for instance, ask about them.  Finding out as much as you can initially about how the attorneys bills for her services will help speed up the review time on later bills.

One thing adjusters do not have to worry about in contacting your attorney to discuss the attorney’s legal bills is that you will be billed for the attorneys’ time in answering those questions or in making adjustments to their bills.  This is because attorneys may not ethically bill any time spent responding to questions about their legal bills or in billing for their services.[1]   As I tell adjusters, it is the only truly free “service” they may ever get from their attorneys!

[1] See Hutchinson v. Wells. 719 F.Supp. 1435 (S.D. Ind. 1989).

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