There have been a number of articles published recently about the New York Times report of alleged attorney overbilling by DLA Piper to a corporate client. The article I found the most constructive was written by Steven Barentzen for the Law Technology News section of the Law.com website.
Rather than just concentrating on this one example, the article lists steps that corporations can take to protect themselves from overbilling; including law firm selection, staffing, experience levels and scrutinizing invoices. Our own research indicates that overbilling is not the only reason corporations overspend on outside counsel. Corporations often make the mistake of paying the same bill twice, or not clearly communicating their billing guidelines and acceptable rates to their law firms prior to working on a matter. Avoiding overpayments to law firms without a technology solution is possible, it is just more cumbersome on the legal staff.
An e-billing solution provides the technology and framework needed to automate invoice routing, recognize duplicate invoices and enforce billing guidelines, but the return on this technology is still dependent on the corporate legal department to embrace that technology and implement it in a way where both staff and outside counsel adopts it. Regardless of whether or not technology used, law firm overbilling can be extremely costly and the steps to protect the corporate legal department from this activity are well worth pursuing.