An Attorney’s Duty to Use Less Costly Personnel

“The tasks performed by a partner that should have been performed by either an associate or paralegal will be charged at the proper associate and/or paralegal rate. In addition, any tasks performed by an associate that could have been performed by a paralegal will be charged at the hourly rate.”

Klimbach v. Spherion Corp., 467 F.Supp.2d 323 (W.D.N.Y. 2006)

One thing that I always recommend insurers and other companies add to their litigation and billing guidelines is a requirement that tasks always be assigned to less costly staff wherever possible. This is not only a common sense requirement, but it also mirrors an attorney’s ethical duties as well as well settled case law.

I always find it somewhat ironic that companies to have to put things in billing guidelines that attorneys ought to otherwise know and be doing on their own without being told to do so. But my experience as a former chair of a state bar ethics committee and bill reviewer has taught me that there are some attorneys who either lack a knowledge of certain ethical requirements or conveniently decide to forget those ethical requirements – especially when it is to their economical advantage to do so. Continue reading

On Controlling Independent Counsel’s Overstaffing

“Participation by too many lawyers is another form of over lawyering that can result in a violation of Rule 1.5(a).”  ABA Annotated Model Rules of Prof. Conduct (7th ed. 2011).

Experience in working with independent counsel for over two decades has taught me that many too often think that they have been given a blank check to defend the insured. Thus, many independent counsel firms think that they can with impunity have as many attorneys as they want work on a case.  As a result, over staffing a case is one of the most common issues I encounter when reviewing independent counsel legal bills.

How to determine what is appropriate staffing for a case or when is it appropriate to add staff to a case are issues I cover in my seminar How to Review Legal Bills Like a Pro©. But for now, the main thing to keep in mind is that independent counsel’s duties with regard to staffing a case are no different that than those of non-independent counsel. Continue reading