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Doubting Thomas questions the ability of generalist corporate lawyers to review some bills

The received wisdom is that in-house lawyers can knowledgeably assess the appropriateness of bills submitted by law firms. This folk wisdom can’t be doubted if the lawyer, while at the law department, has handled many similar matters with outside counsel, or if the lawyer was for some time the billing partner on such matters, or if the services rendered fell in a practice area familiar to the lawyer. But these are substantial and often unmet “ifs” for many corporate counsels.

Worse, if the billing firm has survived convergence, there is less incentive to challenge a bill where the inside lawyer has the stigmata of infrequent experience, no background, or lack of legal training.

Outside counsel might be handling an unusual legal problem, or the lawyer went inside as a fourth year associate who had never prepared bills, or the litigation associate now inside receives a bill covering environmental remediation – or all three conditions of uncommonness, inexperience, and substantive ignorance combine.

All granted, but we have no better method to review bills if the law department dances to the tune of hourly billing.