If an inside lawyer who is responsible for a law firm on a matter manages it well, there should be no write-off on any invoice. The firm will have staffed the work appropriately, timekeepers will have toiled efficiently and billed correctly, the budget (real or could-have-been) will have sufficed, and the bill itself was accurate, complete and in accord with the department’s guidelines. All is well with the world.
The ugly conclusion from that prelapsarian idyll is that when inside counsel lop something off a bill, all was not well. One or more of the optimal circumstances hit a snag. Hence, even modest bill write-offs criticize someone, which may be one reason why they are unusual (See my post of March 6, 2009: barbell of write-off percentages from poll.).
Worse, swingeing write-offs really embarrass someone: the in-house lawyer managed poorly, the firm flubbed it, the invoice mechanics were out of whack – Murphy’s Law was upheld by the Supreme Court of Life. On top of tedium, on top of difficulty, on top of no-win, if you write amounts off an invoice, you indict yourself or your law firm (See my post of Nov. 8, 2005: partners write off time of new associates; Nov. 13, 2006: most-favored-nation agreements and write-downs; Jan. 23, 2008: write off non-core time; Dec. 18, 2006: don’t overdo tracking write offs of invoices; March 1, 2006: economics look bad for bill review; Oct. 15, 2007: inductive vs. deductive bill review; Nov. 28, 2007 on billing disputes, getting paid, and little difference in bill review; and March 2, 2008: bill review with 25 references.).
For more on law firm bills, see my blook on outside counsel management.