You’re in-house and are enjoying the success of the top notch local counsel you hired to assist with your cases. You’re elated and boasting to your superiors what a win this has been for the company. Then you receive the first invoice from your winning firm, and the celebration comes to a sudden and abrupt end.

When hiring a law firm to assist with your cases, the last thing you expect is to waste valuable time entering into a dispute with them over billing issues.

So, what can you do to avoid billing issues with your law firm before they arise?

Communicate. Early and Often. Unfortunately, these conflicts happen all too often between clients and their counsel, and most of these disputes arise over something as simple as a lack of clear communication between the two parties.

Start off on the right foot. It’s a lot easier and more efficient to be proactive than to be reactive. Make sure that both you and your firm are on the same page about rates and timekeepers before – not after – they go into effect.

Manage expectations up front. Send a detailed and specific engagement letter and attach your company’s billing guidelines (and please make sure they’re current – you should be reviewing your guidelines annually to ensure the align with your goals and technology).

Maintain review transparency. From start to finish, ensure that there are no discrepancies in the invoice review process. Both law firms and clients need to have the tools to check, assess, comment on, and ask questions about invoices throughout the project lifecycle – so that surprises and disagreements are kept to an absolute minimum.

Finally, keep the lines of communication open throughout the relationship. This is not a one-and-done conversation. Ideally, you should have a unified system for keeping in touch with your counsel – a means of keeping in contact on a regular basis (and a repository for previous communications), so that you’re always up-to-date with each other.

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