Timekeepers in a law firm are not supposed to bill their client for the time they spend recording their time and submitting invoices. I wonder whether associates, striving to drive up their chargeable hours, honor that ethical rule.
I suspect that law firms spend more time on a bill than does a law department. Each time entry has to be written or typed, entered into a billing system, reviewed and included in a bill, plus all disbursements accounted for. It may well be that the reviewing lawyer in the law department barely glances over the bill before it goes to accounting to be paid – or possibly there is a step in the law department for coding the bill and entering summary information into a matter management system. If the law department uses electronic billing, even those few manual steps disappear.
In sum, it probably takes much more time to produce a bill than to review and approve it. Try fixed fees.