When a British newspaper obtained an enormous pile of receipts from politicians who might have filed bogus personal expenses, it put them online and invited the public to help spot abuses. A clever app let anyone look at a receipt and flag it as dodgy. The paper honored those with the most finds and published the best so the “game” attracted widespread participation. “In less than four days, some 20,000 players analyzed a stunning 176,000 pages,” according to Wired, March 2011 at 52.
Now, take a deep breath. Assume a law department could anonymously post online invoices that have been redacted of identifying details. Assume participants could flag billing practices that deserve review. Or imagine if online reviewers were asked what value they would assign to the work or how the firm might have staffed and managed it better. With some recognition to those who pored over the bills, maybe even cash rewards, there could be a crowd-sourcing “game,” with serious intent, for invoice review and outside counsel management.
Don’t everyone FLAME!! me at once. Harmful disclosures, too much work, risk of attorney-client privilege, embarrassment all shout out to be addressed. “It will never work.” Yet, while not initially for the faint hearted, to unleash many minds in a competition to ferret out better legal services practices may become a practice when entrepreneurs iron out the impediments. Perhaps only disbursements would be scrutinized, or perhaps only certain reviewers would earn the right to take part. Software may speed the process and increase security.
Isn’t it fascinating how a new idea meets with immediate scorn? Yet, there might be a pony in here somewhere.