September 21, 2023
September 2023- Four tips to Initiate Legal Invoice Review Without Jeopardizing Relationships
Today more than ever, legal departments are focused on cost containment. For most, outside counsel services are among their largest cost areas. And high spend on outside counsel often results in smaller budgets for other needs including technology and headcount.
Legal departments use various tools to manage their outside counsel spend, from shifting work from one law firm to another and moving from larger to smaller law firms to pulling more work in-house and employing more alternative legal service providers for select activities. But many aren’t using the one tool nearly guaranteed to reduce costs immediately and better manage spend in the long term: legal bill review.
Understanding their outside counsel don’t always comply with the department legal billing guidelines, most recognize conducting bill review will reduce their spend. But a primary reason those organizations have so far not chosen to embark on an invoice review program is simple: a fear of harming their relationships.
To be clear, law firms are never going to celebrate legal bill review. But it doesn’t have to harm the relationship between law firm and client and, perhaps, can even enhance it.
Here are four keys to engage outside counsel and help ensure they’re part of the solution when initiating a legal bill review program:
- Acknowledge the issue. Recognize the importance of cost containment as part of successfully managing any business and that attempts to reduce spend without legal bill review will likely fall short.
- Have the conversation. Initiate a frank, open and transparent discussion with each firm about why bill review is necessary for the organization to meet its strategic goals. Recognize the value of the relationship, as well as the fact that both parties are businesses, and be clear that this is in the best interest of everyone.
- Show them how to do it. Provide details on how to comply with existing billing guidelines. Offering the firm training on how to meet your expectations will improve the partnership.
- Ask for help. Explain to the firm why, as a valued partner, it’s being asked to help. Being honest about what your business needs and how firms can participate in meeting those needs opens the door to that help and makes the relationship between law firms and the corporate legal department stronger.
Relationships between legal departments and their outside counsel have often been nurtured over time, involving people who have worked together for many years. Many departments fear legal bill review will harm the rapport with longtime outside counsel who are often handling sensitive issues, high-stakes litigation and other items of the utmost importance to the organization. But following these steps can work to promote continued success for both parties.
For more insight, QuisLex director, legal spend solutions, Suzanne Ganier recently wrote about this subject in the article “Conventional Wisdom Is Wrong: Legal Bill Review Won’t Harm Your Relationship with Outside Counsel,” published by Corporate Counsel.