The improvidence of a separate group that only audits and reviews bills

Some large law departments have set up teams whose job it is to review bills of outside counsel. I don’t favor that approach.

First, anything a team can do should be something e-billing software can do, such as checking for arithmetic mistakes, mis-billings, staffing infractions, and violations of guidelines.

Second, review teams suffer from the same problem as third-party bill auditors: they become overly aggressive. When someone unfamiliar with the particular matter reviews bills, and is measured on how many dollars are cut, the result degenerates to over-slashing and ill-feeling.

Third, when auditors knock something off an invoice, many times the in-house lawyer responsible for final approval still has to step in and adjudicate.

Fourth, savvy law firms figure out what the auditors don’t like, but they can’t avoid the ultimate review question: “Did they do what was needed effectively?”

Fifth, the ultimate review question, the determination of value, the decision to pay a bill in full or not, the insights into the matter’s progress and the firm’s prowess, must rest with the in-house lawyer responsible for the matter and the firm’s services. Non-lawyers can only nibble at the edges of a bill. The core responsibility must fall on the lawyer in charge.

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