Legal expense management news for February 21, 2014

Litigation funding update, including some interesting data on the outcomes of funded cases. And The Lawyer has a U.K. perspective on the subject, with one commentator noting that “there are only so many meritorious cases with impecunious claimants and the funders are kissing a lot of frogs…”

And in further litigation funding news, a new “hub” wants to connect law firms, funders and plaintiffs. Law Technology News has more on the story here. (sub. req’d)

“Standard” billing rates continue to rise, but do they “obscure the growing practice of discounts, falling collection rates and a slow march towards alternative fee arrangements”?

Suggestions for “low hanging fruit” for in-house leaders who want to practice law and be a “process engineer, project manager and innovator…”

Dispute continues over former employer’s responsibility for legal fees for acquitted tax shelter designer.

Legal project management includes a budget that “sets out the expectations that a law firm and its client must deal with. It sets forth the milestones and the deliverables that are necessary…”

Finally, it’s a bit off-topic, but as a big fan of LinkedIn, I was interested to see what kind of “LinkedIn Type” I might be.

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Legal expense management news for February 14, 2014

Six ways for in-house leaders to do more with less, including monitoring “work assignments to protect the office mission, and to make certain that lawyers are only “borrowed” when it is useful and meets the highest-priority goals of the organization.” (i.e., Right-Tasking) (sub. req’d)

Some interesting data on what and how much law firms are charging back to clients for copies, color copies, printing, color printing, faxes, postage and shipping. You can also check out the related infographic.

Attorneys bill state over $400K in University of Texas regents investigation, so far.

If you’re unhappy with how your law firms record their time entries on your bills, consider pointing them to “Seven Habits of Effective Billers.” (sub. req’d)

U.S. Judicial Conference restores sequestration-driven cuts in hourly rates for private court-appointed lawyers.

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Legal expense management news for February 7, 2014

New survey of corporate counsel on legal process outsourcing shows that “80 percent said they expect to see the LPO industry expand and improve its services over the next five years.” And LPO’s also received credit for their data analytics capabilities: “Some 37 percent also believed that LPOs are better equipped than law firms are to leverage advanced technology and use data and risk analytics.”

Fee examiner releases report on Detroit’s bankruptcy bills, including billing rates up to $1,000 per hour. One BigLaw firm gave the city a 10% discount on its bill.

Meanwhile, professional fees were cited as reason for decline in bankruptcy filings. At a recent conference, “several restructuring professionals said the increased cost of filing for bankruptcy has neutered it as a tool for collapsing companies to use.”

On-shoring of law firm back office functions continues. This time, Kansas City gets the nod.

U.K. Takeover Code’s naming and put-up-or-shut-up (PUSU) disclosure requirements “means providing more visibility on the quantum of fees in different scenarios and much more emphasis on risk-sharing, with abort/success arrangements and other fee structures. It also means moving away from hourly rates, the need for a more commercial approach and greater empathy with clients’ needs.” There’s more data on deal fees here.

British telco giant changes vendors as part of “next stage of our LPO story,” with a strategy similar to what we espouse at Right-Tasking, by “taking steps to free up their in-house lawyers to focus on high-level legal work, is part of BT’s efforts to streamline the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of its legal function by systematically delegating tasks to the most appropriate team member and accelerating response times.”

Another big bank sees financial results hit hard by increased legal costs.

U.S. government cuts spending on outside legal services.

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Legal expense management news for January 31, 2014

Federal Advisory Committee on Civil Rules considering amendments to discovery rules that would reduce costs.

A “Moneyball” approach to compliance – so that “compliance officers can maximize the “highest and best use” of their limited resources, and the limited resources of those in the organization needed to support and implement the compliance program.”

Would you consider hiring a brand new law school grad for an in-house position? Is there “a lower tier of work that we can staff internally at a lower cost and train them ourselves?”

Does the combination of arbitration with the corporate law expertise of Delaware affect how you approach arbitration clauses? The U.S. Supreme Court may decide whether this program can continue. “The Chancery Court says the program protects the U.S.’s role as a hospitable home for corporations. In its filing to the Supreme Court, it said the costs and risks of litigation in the U.S. could send companies abroad instead, where their deals and disputes can be heard in arbitration courts in Paris, London and other cities.”

In the U.K., one company is “on the hunt for regional firms offering low costs” but through an “informal referral system with a set of ten preferred firms” rather than a formal panel. Meanwhile, a U.K. builder includes “best value” in its panel selection criteria.

RBS sets aside £2.87 billion to cover legal costs.

New study shows small increase in securities class actions. In-house leaders, do you factor this kind of data into your budgeting, and your discussions with your Board?

GC’s, would you consider sourcing your legal needs in China with a Big 4 accounting firm? (reg. req’d)

Apple’s kerfuffle with its e-book monitor (including claims that he and his staff are too expensive) shines “a light on something that has annoyed corporations for years….”

From our “how much does it cost” files: $500/hour for a California lawyer engaged on a case in Nebraska “was was justified because the case included some California legal issues.” And the EEOC is appealing a $4.7 million attorneys’ fee award in a sexual harassment case.

BigLaw fees for Detroit bankruptcy top $17 million.

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Legal expense management news for January 17, 2014

BigLaw’s $1,000+ hourly rates were in the headlines this week. But some BigLaw partners bill out for far less. (sub. req’d)

Can contract terms help mitigate e-discovery costs? We’ll be watching this series of articles for model claims which claim to “1) restrict the duty to preserve to instances where a notice or request to preserve is served; 2) limit the amount of discovery allowed; 3) establish mechanisms that govern preservation and production decisions in a predictable framework; 4) establish procedures allocating the costs for discovery; and 5) outline restrictions on sanctions for purported discovery failures.” Should be interesting.

Survey indicates that corporate leaders are increasingly receptive to litigation finance, although in-house and outside counsel opinions diverge somewhat. Inside Counsel has more on the story here.

Apple must keep lawyer monitoring e-book policies despite fee issues and other complaints, Judge rules.

From our “how much does it cost?” files: BigLaw’s $126,000 fee request in small landlord-tenant case generates blistering response from the judge, “who lambasted the firm’s billing records as showing a “stunningly inordinate amount of time” on simple tasks.” (sub. req’d)

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Legal expense management news for January 10, 2014

General Counsels, are your outside firms appointing pricing officers, and if so, what effects are you seeing in your fees and engagement terms? “Pricing officers (and committees or departments, where applicable) are charged with helping partners more accurately budget matters and improve profitability of engagements.”

Information sharing and “tech savvy” cited as reasons why law department leaders “are able to scrutinize law firm services more carefully and to ‘push back’ on fees.” (sub. req’d)

Healthcare compliance officers survey indicates that “they need to have access to more training, more staff, increased budget, assistance with audits and compliance software to help with the spring of data breach laws.”

A U.K. BigLaw partner’s perspective on the issues that must be addressed in “fixed fee” engagements.

Fees continue to be an issue in Apple vs. court-appointed monitor kerfuffle.

On-line legal services provider defers IPO, raises $200 million from private equity firm.

Who are the legal services “system builders“? “These are the talented, seasoned professionals whose expertise makes commoditization possible.”

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Legal expense management news for January 3, 2014

We’re back and ready to begin 2014. Happy New Year!

BigLaw attorney helps startups reduce legal fees by using Rap Genius to explain jargon-heavy documents.

Fee dispute between Apple and antitrust monitor back in the news. Interesting tidbit: Apple’s fee policy requires “most favored” treatment, requiring “all legal advisers to charge fees “at the lesser of (i) our agreed discounted rates; or (ii) the lowest price offered to any other client for similar services.”

Does crowdsourced legal research have a place in your legal department’s portfolio of sourcing options?

Pennsylvania Attorney General cites litigation costs in calling on the FTC to investigate “patent trolls”: “Due to the high price of patent lawsuits, these trolls pose an unfair, disproportional threat to small businesses and their innovation, which is the engine of our economy. Victims often pay a fee to trolls rather than go through an expensive court fight…”

Lists for the New Year include the “top 10 ways to run your legal department like a business unit.” And predictions for 2014 include the “end of e-discovery processing fees…”

From our “how much does it cost?” files: Georgia judge orders “mother to pay $195,513 in attorney fees for pursuing child-abuse allegations against her ex-husband that the judge deemed not credible.” (sub. req’d)

Plaintiffs’ counsel fee-shifting request in vitamin C antitrust case reduced from $15 million to $4.1 million. Hourly rates ranged from “$375 for junior associates to $980 for senior partners.” (sub. req’d)

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Legal expense management news for December 20, 2013

Detroit’s bankruptcy bills continue to mount – nearly $28 million for lawyers, accountants, art appraisers, financial advisers, experts – and fee examiners.

ABS (alternative business structure) news from the U.K.: second top 50 firm secures ABS license, allowing the firm to appoint non-solicitors to its membership. The Lawyer has more on the story here.

Court orders litigation funders to post another $8.9 million in security under the U.K.’s loser-pays principal.

21 expert predictions for the legal industry in 2014.

Madoff scandal update: $823 million in attorneys fees/expenses, including $468 million to BakerHostetler.

U.K. panel news: big bank begins review, “with the bank set to split its roster of law firms into separate pools of ‘preferred’ and ‘approved’ advisers.”

And a Japanese investment bank also wrapped up its panel review. “The panel is understood to get reviewed every two years.”

One of the “things General Counsel need to know for 2014” is that “alternatives to big law firms are here to stay.” A portfolio approach is one of the core principles of Right-Tasking: “The increase in the number and variety of legal vendors out there, not to mention the highly attractive and adaptable cost models they offer, is great news for GCs tired of the status quo. As the legal ecosystem becomes more crowded, complex and competitive in 2014, GCs should approach their legal spend strategically and build a diversified portfolio of legal providers.”

Can law departments be an “economic development engine“? One GC says his department “earned more money than it spent by garnering tax savings or government grants.”

From our “how much does it cost?” files: BigLaw requests $2 million for voting rights case. And a toy manufacturer was ordered to pay $137 million in attorneys’ fees and costs in a long-running trade secrets case. (sub. req’d)

We will be away with family next Friday, returning the first Friday in 2014.
Happy Holidays!

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Legal expense management news for December 6, 2013

House passes bill aimed at patent ‘trolls’ based in part on high litigation costs. Inside Counsel has more on the story.

From our “how much does it cost?” files: Apple’s external monitor bills at $1,100 per hour, and his BigLaw support at $1,025 per hour.

Also from our “how much does it cost?” files: Jury awards $27,280 in damages in gender discrimination case, and Ninth Circuit rejects challenge to the nearly $700,000 attorney fee award. (reg. req’d)

Should the “litigation settlement machine” be reformed so that clients get “someone to decide who’s right, and to resolve the dispute by deciding it, not by forcing a compromise”?

Will firms that downsize their real estate costs be rewarded with more work since the “traditional square footage is not necessary to do a great job serving clients and providing a great workspace.” Or do law department leaders count on access to conference rooms and other resources as part of their outside counsel’s package of services?

Is it fair to assume that “hot” practice areas will command premium rates, while “not hot” areas won’t?

U.K. panel review news: GC-less builder finalizes first law firm panel.

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Giving Thanks for My Mentors

In the spirit of Thanksgiving Day yesterday here in the U.S., this week I want to express my gratitude for a few of the mentors, colleagues, friends and family who have guided my career in various ways. It’s not an exhaustive list – there are so many candidates I could probably make this an annual honor roll. But with that lawyerly caveat in mind, here are some of the people who have influenced me the most.

- Mr. P, from whom I learned that even if you’re working from “forms” that your predecessor junior associates have used many times, you still have to pay close attention to all the details of the project in order to do the job right.

- Mr. G, who showed me the value of paying attention to how things look – presentation value, one might say – when it will help accomplish your client’s goals faster and more completely.

- The GC at my first in-house gig, who taught me that you should win or lose the point, not simply push it down the road – although I’ll admit that I’ve added my own gloss of “if you absolutely have to punt on an issue to get the deal done, be sure that all involved understand the consequences of punting….”

- Mr. T, who works harder than anyone on his staff, but never forgets the big picture and the importance of being a gentleman.

- Dr. Oz, where I learned that although it’s more work to figure out how to make the least possible changes to a document while still getting what you need, it pays off in getting better deals done faster.

- Mr. Y., for letting me watch him negotiate for items both hugely consequential and decidedly mundane – with exquisite politeness and bulldog persistence.

- Mr. B, who showed me that you’re never too senior and well-paid to crack open the law books and learn something new. A great guy all-around – I regularly ask myself “what would he do” when trying to figure out how to deal with tough situations.

- J is whip-smart and a deep thinker – and still has fun even in the toughest negotiations. He heard me use the word “penultimate” in a conversation one time, and was determined to find a way to use it in our deal documents. Sure enough, on the last evening of hard-fought negotiations on a major transaction, it was exactly the word we needed in a complicated contract provision.

That’s this year’s installment. And it goes without saying that I owe my mother and father so much for everything I learned and all the opportunities to learn new things – even the summers and school holidays mowing yards and working in the box factory – that I had before I ever showed up at a law job.

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