Legal fees may always have been the bain of clients’ lives, but they are now clamping down more vigorously than ever on law costs. Many in-house lawyers view back-office charges with increased skepticism according to a poll of 64 law firms this year by Mattern & Associates LLC, which found that 80 per cent of respondents had clients who balked at paying for legal research and 69 per cent said they had clients who simply wouldn’t pay at all.
After the recession sparked a widespread revolt over generous law-firm fees, clients are increasingly raising objections to big bills for legal miscellany.
Invoices for food, photocopies and legal research—items that once were rubber-stamped by companies—are drawing howls. As for charges for first-class flights? Clients are simply saying, “No more.”
Some routine costs, such as an attorney’s cab fare to the courthouse, are minuscule compared with the huge sums lawyers bill for work on complex mergers or lawsuits. But other items, such photocopying, often pile up and can amount to millions of dollars a year for some big companies.
“The expenses can add up,” says Stewart Aaron, a litigation partner who heads the New York office of Arnold & Porter LLP. “Clients…are paying more attention.”
Often, in-house attorneys are asking law firms to justify the charges.