A checklist for outside counsel guidelines recommends a protocol it describes as a “weekly billing summary.” The law firm must submit each week to the general counsel (!) and each lawyer responsible for a matter an informal summary of the week’s billings. The summary lists the names of the billers, their hourly rates, the number of hours billed, and the tasks performed. Graciously, it continues: “The law firm may revise the figures in this informal summary as necessary when creating the monthly invoice.”
Other than for a rare, very costly matter, it cannot be worthwhile to use either side’s time to trudge through this (See my post of May 19, 2006: why departments don’t care about real-time billing.). Some external lawyers do not turn in their time records quickly enough. Further, in-house counsel do not want to take their precious time looking at informal tote boards. They should attend mostly to what the firm plans to do and what timekeepers will work on those services. If you must permit hourly billing, let the bills come monthly after they have been scrubbed. If you feel you have to keep such close tabs on a firm, you have retained the wrong firm. Or you are a micro-managing control freak.
Other techniques can keep the managing attorney apprised of costs, such as notice every time $25,000 is incurred. Or, tell firms to notify the supervising attorney when one-half of the budget for a matter is reached and when three-quarters of the budget is reached.