17 Jul 2017

Legal departments do not trust law firms on billing

Law firms are not consistent on billing with few following guidelines and questions over quality, say clients.


Less than one third - just 31 per cent - are satisfied with outside counsel’s compliance with their guidelines and not a single respondent completely satisfied, according to a new Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions study conducted in partnership with Gartner. Furthermore two in three respondents said they do not know who takes responsibility for overseeing compliance with guidelines at each firm.

Key findings

Just six per cent of corporate legal departments and insurers believe their outside counsel and billing guidelines are up to scratch for audit and compliance purposes. When it comes to the primary objectives in implementing billing and staffing guidelines, 75 per cent want to control costs, some 65 per cent said they wanted to ensure basic compliance with processes while 60 per cent wanted to create consistency across relationships with outside law firms.The report also found that 55 per cent wanted to make it easier to manage outside counsel  and 23 per cent stated they wanted to define and ensure work quality.

'Few happy with results'

‘While most claims and corporate legal departments have billing guidelines, few are happy with results,’ said Bill Sowinski, director of decision support services for Wolters Kluwer’s ELM Solutions. ‘Once guidelines and an e-billing system are in place, many take a detached approach to management and maintenance. It’s understandable. Internal review takes time and is not the reviewer’s only priority, and it is hard to audit effectively and accurately if unfamiliar with the underlying matter or guidelines. When it comes to responding to non-compliance, most don’t want to strain relationships with their firms and prefer to take a hands-off approach.’