Firms bill more when settlement discussions are underway. That is the belief of some in-house litigators. When a responsible partner realizes that the trough may soon be emptied by resolution of the case, lots of thirsty timekeepers crowd in to drink deeply.
Alternatively and legitimately, the time immediately before settlement brings much work, late hours, demands for specialists, and high bills just naturally, somewhat like fees spike in the period just before and during trial. In fact, settlement discussions and pre-trial frenzy often happen at the same time (See my post of May 6, 2009: does the burn rate rise the longer a case lasts; and May 20, 2005: burn rate jumps during trial.).