In our quest to understand every facet of timekeeping, we’ve been studying how General Counsels audit their law firm bills, which they do to cut offending time entries and thus reduce their payment.
Armed with such knowledge, you can leverage your timekeeping practices to minimize hassle, boost revenue and reduce friction between your firm and your clients.
Anticipating the Audit
Your clients are always scrutinizing your bills, looking for every opportunity to find offense or error and thus reject a charge. They also are looking for any ethical violations. This, of course, explains the extensive billing guidelines so many general counsels have placed upon their firms. From their perspective, it is all about saving money and maintaining client-firm trust.
Here is a list of common items that General Counsels are looking for when they audit your bills:
- Any time billed for the time spent preparing or reviewing bills
- Changing rates without approval
- Staff changes for any reason without prior approval
- Over-staffing of a court hearing, conference or deposition
- The practice of charging attorney rates for clerical work
- Utilizing multiple attorneys for work that might be done by one attorney
- Charging for existing work product as though it were newly created
- Billing for the time it takes to train new associates
- Billing excessive hours in one day
- Block billing instead of task-based billing
- Billing in large “minimum” time segments, such as 15 minutes for sending an email
Making Billing a Win-Win
While it makes sense for General Counsels to scrutinize bills, from a firm’s perspective, these audits can lead to headache, hassle, delayed payment and a reduction in revenue, not to mention a rift in the client-firm relationship.
Anything you can do to smooth this process, from complying with guidelines to minimizing errors, will go a long way to make for an all-around better billing experience for you and your clients.