Why Attorneys Must Always Tell You About Less Costly “Alternative Courses of Legal Action”

Ethics rule requires attorneys to do so even if not asked.

If you want to get that “deer in the headlights” look from your attorney ask her if she is familiar with the mandatory ethical duty to explain alternative courses of action. See ABA Annotated Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Comments to RPC 1.4(b) at p. 63 “Duty to Explain Law and Benefits and Risks of Alternative Courses of Action.”

As this mandatory duty relates to controlling legal costs, it means that an attorney is absolutely required to provide you with “alternative courses of action” that may be less costly but may still accomplish the overall objective.  This ties in with a lawyer’s ethical duty to defer to the client on issues having to do with expenses.  See RPC 1.2, Comment [2] “lawyers usually defer to the client regarding such questions as the expense to be incurred.” And it stands to reason that you cannot be expected to make an informed decision on expenses unless you know all of the options.

This means that even if you laid out to the lawyer exactly what you wanted done and how it should be done, an ethical lawyer should have explained any reasonable “alternative courses of action” that may have been available to accomplish the stated objectives.  This especially would include those alternatives that might involve less expense. Continue reading

Are “Pre-Bill Consultants” Helping Attorneys to “Fly Under the Radar” of Legal Bill Review Programs?

Because of the potential to “game” the system, bills from law firms that use “pre-bill consultants” undergo more scrutiny.

Two years ago I wrote a post about a new niche business service for attorneys, “pre-bill consultants.” As I wrote, pre-bill consultants are used by attorneys to scrutinize their legal bills before they are sent to insurers and other clients to ensure that the legal bills comply with client guidelines and are otherwise accurate.  The hoped for result is less deductions in legal bills due to billing “errors.”

Ostensibly, it looked like a win-win situation to me and I wrote favorably about pre-bill consultants.  But in a recent conversation with an in-house legal bill unit manager, I heard a different story. The manager pointed out to me something that I already knew: e-billing systems can be “gamed.” And he believed that some pre-bill consultants are gaming the system. Continue reading