Legal expense management news for May 9, 2014

Canadian judge criticizes Nortel lawyers for “shocking” fees. “Dozens of professional firms working on the case have drawn more than $1 billion combined from Nortel during the bankruptcy, and the spending has intensified as the trial approaches.” (sub. req’d) The WSJ’s Law Blog also has the story.

The American Lawyer has fee data on the New Jersey “Bridgegate” imbroglio, Detroit’s bankruptcy, and the Apple e-book monitor. (sub. req’d)

U.K. panel review news: Big grocer concludes third panel review – jointly run by in-house counsel and procurement.

In “non-firm firm” news: Wal-Mart adds lawyers on site for Toronto shoppers – might the U.S. be next?

Law clerk’s letter to the editor regarding attorney’s billing “shenanigans” that allegedly “artificially pumped up his billing from $150,000 to well over $395,000.”

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Legal expense management news for May 2, 2014

Two new tools for billing rate comparisons. One is designed for use by corporate counsel to benchmark outside counsel rates, providing “data on matter costs, hourly rates and alternative fee arrangements.” The other is aimed at helping BigLaw “slice and dice financial data aggregated from other firms so that they can compare their performance against their competitors.”

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two opinions on fee-shifting in favor of prevailing parties in “exceptional cases” under the Patent Act, making “it substantially easier for prevailing litigants to seek, and district courts to award, attorney’s fees under § 285.”

E-discovery special masters in Federal district court in Pennsylvania – in place since 2010 – is a “program where parties cover the costs of the special master usually results in substantial cost savings to those parties.”

In the same spirit as our Right-Tasking philosophy, a large tech company is using technology and a “follow the sun” model to reduce the time spent on high volume/low complexity tasks.

U.K. panel review news: Big bank finalizes panel for deals where the customer pays the law firm (a “customer-pay panel”). “The bank has split its panel into 12 spots with each divided into five or six value bases. Some firms have won work with a price tag of up to £25,000 while others will be given the chance to work on mandates of over £1m.” And a larger grocer has finalized its real estate panel.

Another angle on alternative legal services: is visualization a better way to do legal research?

The ABA Journal takes a deep dive into the world of the venture capitalists who are funding legal services start-ups. “Venture capitalists are skeptical of the upheaval underway in BigLaw, with uncertainty around changes in pricing and ownership rules as well as concern about efficiency and access to justice. So instead, VCs are investing in the legal technology vendors that are filling in some of those holes.”

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Legal expense management news for April 25, 2014

IPO legal fees survey shows significant increases in the past two years. The American Lawyer has more on the story.

BigLaw and other legal costs begin to mount in New Jersey bridge investigation.

From our “how much does it cost?” files: $1.3 million for trial technology, including a private broadcast of the proceedings.

Toronto legal startup says it is challenging tradition with no-frills fees.

Alternative service provider news: Business practices of provider of online interactive self-help legal documents approved by South Carolina Supreme Court.

Texas lawyer sentenced to 10 years for double-billing in indigent defense cases.

Legal project management (LPM) now has its own book from the ABA.

New York court rules that delaying tactics in divorce case justified award of legal fees.

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Legal expense management news for April 18, 2014

Washington Post on alternative fee arrangements (AFA’s): Is the legal market moving away from hourly billing for litigation?

BigLaw survey shows that companies are spending more on high-stakes litigation and regulatory enforcement actions. The Texas Lawbook has more on the story here: “More than one-third of the companies say that they now employ five full-time lawyers in-house to work exclusively on litigation matters.” (sub. req’d)

Bank of America CFO says legal costs “can be lumpy and it’s just very hard to predict.” Legal expenses were also a drag on Citigroup’s earnings.

From our “how much does it cost?” files: Texas Governor’s lawyer in veto probe hired at $450 hourly rate (on the taxpayer’s dime).

Taxpayers and legal experts question why New Jersey is paying some attorneys’ fees tied to the Governor’s bridge issues. “New Jersey has retained five law firms to represent employees in the bridge matter, paying them $340 an hour.”

In-house leaders, are your panel reviews designed as scheduled periodic events or an “ongoing process“?

“Moneyball” data-crunching tools for IP cases “seek to help lawyers craft a successful plan and perhaps even forecast the case result…”

General counsels, is this survey data consistent with how you allocate work among your “primary” and “secondary” firms?

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Legal expense management news for April 11, 2014

BigLaw bill for Christie bridge inquiry will include 40% discount, according to New Jersey’s Attorney General.

District court orders the Department of Labor to pay more than $565,000 in attorneys’ fees to oilfield services company for a case the judge said “should have [been] abandoned.”

Cue the circus music: Fee request in animal rights case alleged to be “ridiculous” and “unconscionable” due to “inflating bills, failing to ‘exercise sound billing judgment,’ and overstaffing.”

Using measurable and meaningful metrics to manage and control electronic discovery costs.

U.K. BigLaw partner moves to Big 4 accounting firm’s “new cyber and data security offering.” In-house leaders, have you determined whether these Big 4 law affiliates are approaching fees any differently than your traditional firms?

U.K. General Counsel adds a few wrinkles to panel review, asking firms “to identify a significant market trend and how it might affect the business, to come up with an innovative Pizza Hut or KFC menu offering and, more unexpectedly, to share the single best piece of advice they’d ever been given.” Some firms just didn’t “get it,” including one partner who “cited the use of track changes on documents as his idea for how Yum could improve its business.” Amazing.

Survey data on how law departments select e-discovery vendors finds that “half of the law departments at large companies concentrate their e-discovery spending with two to four outside providers, while another 39 percent spread their work across more than five.”

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Legal expense management news for April 4, 2014

For GC’s tasked with responsibility for contracts management: 10 suggestions for increasing effectiveness and cutting costs.

Will advanced technologies (think IBM’s “Watson” on TV’s Jeopardy) lead to “huge cost savings for clients”?

U.K. panel review news: “drinks giant” appoints three “preferred suppliers” to work alongside a list of specialists. Meanwhile, a tech company launches its first panel review “to get better cost consistency across external spend as well as better service generally.”

From our “how much does it cost?” files: £1.8m for a U.K. privatization.

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Legal expense management news for March 28, 2014

Survey of large corporate clients shows demand dips as rates tick up: “Corporate clients purchased fewer hours from law firms in 2013 than they did the year before, even as they paid more for what they bought.”

U.K. BigLaw, after success with nearshoring, seeks to replicate the model in Asia. (sub. req’d)

If you don’t have time to go to one of the legal technology trade shows, here’s a good summary of legal technology trends to keep an eye on.

The International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM) has an upcoming program where you can find out “how one local government GC has transformed a traditional in-house public sector legal service from a passive, bureaucratic cost-centre into a dynamic, profit-making business.”

U.K. panel review news: Consumer products giant launches first-ever panel review – led by a legal operations director. Meanwhile, big U.K. construction firm “has revamped its roster of legal advisers after asking its go-to advisers to reduce their rates.” (sub. req’d)

Survey data on e-discovery preservation costs.

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Legal expense management news for March 21, 2014

U.K. Commercial Court survey findings on cost issues “hint at significant concern that London’s pole position as the dispute resolution centre of choice for Russian oligarchs, Persian Gulf sheiks and other international heavyweights is under threat.” Issues include court fees, e-discovery costs and case “churning.”

Meanwhile, one of the “non-firm firms” from the U.K. launches a witty television commercial on fixed fees – that is, fees that are “fixed, finite, no conditions….” And in a related article, they address five questions – and answers – regarding fixed fees, including the need to focus on outputs and value.

Energy giant request $32.3 million in attorneys’ fees and expenses after winning high-profile racketeering case. The fee application includes a $950 average hourly rate for the BigLaw partners on the case, as well as over 100,000 hours billed by contract attorneys.

Energy giant launches U.K. panel review as three-year mandate expires. In other U.K. panel news, private equity shop adds new BigLaw after partner switches firms. And a U.K. energy company pursues a “slimline” roster.

Can you turn the millions you’re spending on document review for big cases into “a reusable asset that can be leveraged in the next review” by “creating reusable synonym-rings”?

Interesting perspectives on merging legal departments from different jurisdictions, and using language lessons as a tool for enhancing integration.

California court awards costs for technology that “enhanced counsel’s advocacy and was reasonably necessary to the conduct of the litigation…” (sub. req’d)

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Legal expense management news for March 14, 2014

Shanghai’s Pilot Free Trade Zone may expand options for sourcing legal services in China.

Highlights from Harvard Law’s Disruptive Innovation Conference, including “disruptive imitation.”

If you have an IP litigation docket, keep an eye on the two cases regarding the standards for attorneys’ fee awards in patent cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. In related news, the Federal Circuit affirmed a district court’s denial of additional fees beyond its original award.

U.K. firm seeks to bolster “New Law” credentials with low-cost legal services center, “lawyers on demand” and “managed legal services.”

U.S. sporting goods giant selects alliance of independent firms for EU needs, rather than a single international firm. Firms agreed “to offer a flat-fee rate to Nike across the jurisdictions, as well as consistent working procedures.” Sounds like a swing and a miss for BigLaw, and a win for SmallLaw.

From our “how much does it cost” files: U.K. BigLaw and PwC share £5m for investigation into allegations of false billing practices by security firm. (sub. req’d)

Problems with law department knowledge management initiatives can include “too much” communism, freedom, ambition and information.

Finally, from our own backyard, “patent trolls” come under fire at South by Southwest.

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Legal expense management news for March 7, 2014

Law department operations manager’s message to law firms who want to stay with traditional hourly rate structures: “I’m not sure how much longer we’ll continue to work with firms that won’t change.”

More competition coming to the legal services market: $458 million was invested into legal startups in 2013, and 2014 looks to be another big year. Meanwhile, Harvard Law School hosted a conference on “disruptive innovation” in legal services, and start-up out of Stanford Law School launches “platform designed to enable lawyers to offer unbundled legal services over the Internet as standardized, set-priced products…” (sub. req’d)

Deloitte survey of U.K. BigLaw finds “strengthening” of law firm rates, including a 4.5% increase in fees per fee earner for Q3 FY14 and a 3.5% increase in average rates recovered per hour across all firms.

Could upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling on “fraud on the market” theory potentially wipe out a swath of shareholder class actions – and affect the defense bar’s business model just as much as the plaintiffs’ lawyers?

Goldman Sachs reduced its forecast for legal fees by about $400 million.

National Football League paid BigLaw nearly $25 million during the 2012 fiscal year. (sub. req’d)

U.K. panel news includes the Royal Shakespeare Company‘s inaugural panel, and a 170-firm corporate and commercial banking panel.

If you’re a Texas Lawbook subscriber, check out their article “Five Firms Experiment With Alternative Fee Arrangements.”

It’s slightly off-topic, but an interesting billing dispute nonetheless: Feds say that telco’s overbilled them for eavesdropping on phone calls.

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