During a session with a leading e-billing vendor, I learned that one of the most common reasons why law departments challenge bills is that the time record description is inadequate. Whoever recorded 2.4 hours as “Attention to the file” simply did not provide enough detail for the reviewer to assess the reasonableness of that time charge. One could call that bill review by induction, because the aggregation of individual items that are rejected for insufficient particularity builds up to the total amount challenged.
My view advocates bill review by deduction. Better, I propose, for a lawyer to assess the overall reasonableness of the bill in light of the achievements during that month. If the law firm is within its budget or if progress made during the month was demonstrable, why bother with line-by-line scrutiny? My basic premise is that the highest and best use of in-house lawyers is not reviewing bills at the level of timekeeper daily submission. Far better to spend time giving good, clear direction before the work is done and recorded than pouring over billing detail afterwards (See my post of June 16, 2006 on the time required.).