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Large numbers of law firm timekeepers billing to matters

An article about William Ohlemeyer, Altria’s litigation chief (Corp. Counsel, Vol. 12, Nov. 2005 at 92), quotes him as saying that in large lawsuits, “you can very quickly get dozens, if not hundreds, of people involved in … a case.” He invoked the 80/20 rule, since a few of those timekeepers do most of the work (See my post of Sept. 4, 2005 on Pareto’s rule.).

It could be a useful exercise for a law department to count how many timekeepers billed to a set of recently-closed lawsuits. Next, calculate what percentage of them accounted for 80 percent of the time billed. Or, for other insights, look at the levels of timekeepers and the distribution of work between them (See my post of Aug. 26, 2005 on measuring delegation to paralegals.). An even more sophisticated analysis would show when the timekeepers billed – throughout the matter, in one lump, episodically?

Would it be squeezing the screws too much to announce that in any six month billing period, the law department will not pay for timekeepers billing less than some number of hours, or those that account for the smallest five percent of the hours?