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Insist on a précis at the start of each large invoice

General Electric’s Brackett Denniston and Alex Dimitrief updated the chapter on billing in Bob Haig’s Successful Partnering series. In one section (14-37) they note that “At GE, we now require our law firms to preface their monthly statements with a table that specifies precisely where a matter stands vis-à-vis the overall budget and expressly affords law firms an opportunity to address any related issues before a firm busts its budget.”

I strongly endorse the requirement that the billing partner add a paragraph at the top of the bill. A table even more clearly tells the numbers. The paragraph should state the two or three activities covered by the bill period that drove the major portion of the fees, the important benefits delivered, and the status against budget (See my post of Feb. 21, 2007: standardized formats for bills.). With that summary, much of the difficulty of deciphering and uncoding the pages of time records that follow will be reduced. The lawyer who reviews the invoice will be much better able to decide whether the value delivered matches the fees charged.

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2 responses to “Insist on a précis at the start of each large invoice”

  1. I recommend the same thing to firms in my book and my classes. Communicate the big picture, or else get nibbled to death by ducks on the small stuff.

  2. We do a table-based precis on all time-based bills (i.e., not for flat fee/unit fee engagements). I like your suggestion of including the benefits, if I can figure out a way to convey them. We do include an estimate of savings based on our discounts.