Some of the recent stories involving alleged overbilling by law firms for legal work – much of it for document review – begs the question whether it’s time to ditch the per hour model for document review in place of a per document rate for review?
As discussed by D. Casey Flaherty in Law Technology News (DLA Piper Is Not Alone: Why Law Firms Overbill), DLA Piper has been sued by its client – to the tune of over $22 million – for overbilling. When DLA Piper produced some 250,000 documents in response to its client’s eDiscovery requests, some embarrassing internal emails were included in that production. For example:
In his article, Flaherty provides two other examples of (at least) perceived overbilling:
While the DLA Piper example isn’t specifically about document review overbilling, it does reflect how cavalier some firms (or at least some attorneys at those firms) can be about the subject of overbilling. For the other two examples above, document review overbilling appears to be at the core of those disputes. There are admittedly different levels of document review, depending on whether the attorneys are performing a straightforward responsiveness review, a privilege review, or a more detailed subject matter/issue coding review. Nonetheless, the number of documents in the collection is finite and the cost for review should be somewhat predictable, regardless of the level of review being conducted.
Why don’t more firms offer a per document rate for document review? Or, perhaps a better question would be why don’t more organizations insist on a per document rate? That seems like a better way to make document review costs more predictable and more consistent. I’m not sure why, other than “that’s the way we’ve always done it”, that it hasn’t become more predominant. Knowing the per document rate and the number of documents to be reviewed up front would seem to eliminate overbilling disputes for document review, at least.
So, what do you think? Is it time to ditch the per hour model for document review? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.
Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.
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