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Law departments should pay for meetings within firms, but scrutinize the bills

Some law departments balk at paying for more than one attorney’s time when attorneys hold internal conferences to discuss a client’s matter. For example, I understand that Wachovia just amended its outside counsel guidelines to make clear that limitation. Firms view such internal conferences as important and effective ways to exchange information efficiently and to make sure that all attorneys are moving in the right direction. Even so, meetings can burn up the bills.

Wachovia’s position is extreme. I have heard of a variant: a firm can bill the time of the highest billing rate lawyer at a meeting, and no others’ time. To beat my drum again, with fixed fee arrangements, no client cares about the amount of internal caucusing. On hourly arrangements, as Pres. Reagan said, “trust but verify.”