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Life Cycle of a Matter - Staffing

By Mike Russell posted 07-24-2017 10:13

LifecycleOfAMatter.pngA Corporate Legal Client Perspective

Using the example of a routine litigation matter, staffing first occurs within the law department. Generally, the size and complexity of a given legal department will dictate to what extent internal teams of attorneys and paralegals are dedicated to specific business units, divisions, or departments of the greater organization.

One of the first questions for the internal team is whether or not any outside legal service providers are necessary; standardized processes around early case assessment often enables the team to quickly resolve matters without incurring any external defense spend whatsoever.

When necessary, a decision to engage outside counsel and other resources is made. A prequalified panel of local / regional firms, often operating on a fixed-fee basis, drives the staffing assignments; generally, these teams have history with similar matters for the company in their respective jurisdictions.

As case workup progresses, the in-house protocols dictate when and if additional resources are assigned, perhaps around discovery/document review, etc. If trial workup is likely, designated national trial counsel firms are engaged, with ongoing in-house oversight and consultation. By following the standard work protocols and adhering to billing guidelines, the in-house team is able to more completely manage the legal spend relative to strategy and outcome.

Throughout the life of the matter, LEDES invoices are uploaded and analyzed through the electronic billing portal. Invoices are automatically rejected for any violations of billing guidelines, including work by unapproved team members (timekeepers) or invalid rates, for those not already operating under a fixed fee. For those on hourly billing, adjustments may be made as part of the invoice review process.

Finally, it remains surprising to corporate clients that many firms do not bill for services rendered or expenses incurred on a timely basis. Operating under a fixed-fee scenario reduces some of the cash flow issues, though ongoing tightening of billing guidelines to ensure all invoices are received, and even non-payment of late invoices is still a necessary recourse.