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(Another) Top Trick to Reach Your Daily Quota as an Overworked Attorney: Document Review

September 13, 2012

This is my second post in a continuing series on favorite techniques that attorneys use to reach their unsustainable billable hour quotas.  You can view the first three techniques here.  This “trick” gets its own post because it may be the “grandaddy” of them all (except for pure, unadulterated billing fraud, i.e., simply making up hours for work not done) for racking up a client’s bill.

4.  Document Review:  It has been estimated that it takes an attorney approximately 8 hours to review one “banker’s box” of documents.  Let’s assume you are lucky and have a relatively small case with only 10 boxes of documents to review.  10 times 8 = 80 hours.  Many cases have many multiples of that.  So 80 hours times your attorney’s billable rate.  That rate can run anywhere from $200 (what hack are you using) to $400 (I’m assuming the big-billing partners are not doing your document review).  Using my trusty Lawyer Clock, that means you will be billed anywhere between $16,000 to $32,000 for that 10-box document review.  If you have 100 boxes, add a zero: $160,000 to $320,000.  If you have a 1,000 boxes to review, add another zero:  $1,600,000 to $3,200,000!  Hmmm, maybe we should settle this little dispute…

  • Solution:  First, I’d start by seriously exploring early resolution techniques prior to engaging in any intensive document review.  If that fails, I would either (1) undertake an initial document review in-house (using yourself or your own employees for a first scan of the documents, flagging documents for review by your attorney), (2) require outsourcing of the document review, paying only the actual price of the work, as opposed to any up charge by the attorney (look here for a realistic view of the workings of poorly-implemented outsourcing), or (3) explore ADR with stipulated reasonable discovery guidelines.

Don’t let your attorneys fool you.  That Harvard Law first-year associate (billed at $400 per hour) almost surely knows less than you do about your industry and your dispute.  Oh, and the above example doesn’t even mention the money-sucking abyss of modern e-discovery…

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