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Legal fee disputes usually concern the reasonableness of fees and costs charged by an attorney or law firm. These disputes fall into two categories, first party and third party. In first party disputes it is the client, or former client, who questions the charges. First party disputes may involve a single matter or a range of matters. In third party disputes, the bills are questioned by a party that did not hire the attorney but is liable for payment of the fees by contract or statute. When fee disputes arise, we assist our clients by analyzing the bills in question, quantifying inappropriate charges and identifying questionable billing practices. Our approach ranges from a simple bill review to a full audit, depending on the circumstances and the needs of the client.

Bill Reviews: This involves the analysis of legal invoices conducted in our offices, usually with little or no work product. This process is used when the client:

  • Does not want the subject law firm to know that the bills are being reviewed
  • Does not have access to work product generated by the firm
  • Desires an assessment of a range of matters handled by a single firm or an overview of the practices of its entire outside panel
  • Desires to keep the cost of the analysis to a minimum

Bill reviews allow us to identify inappropriate charges and questionable billing practices that appear on the face of the invoices. 

Legal Bill Audits: An audit is a comprehensive analysis of a legal matter. It generally takes place at the law firm and involves a review of the work product as well as the invoices. An audit allows us to compare the task listed in the bill with the actual work produced. This process yields a greater amount of detail than a bill review and generally results in better information for use in fee dispute resolution. An audit is the best choice when the client:

  • Has the ability to compel the firm to produce its file for review
  • Desires a comprehensive analysis of the entire matter
  • Expects the fee dispute to end in adversarial proceedings

All audits require more time to complete and are more costly than bill reviews. However, if the fee dispute is likely to end in litigation, an audit will provide the best information to support the clientís position.

Bill Review With Partial Work Product: Between a bill review and a full audit is a bill review with partial work product. This option is used when the client:

  • Does not have the ability to compel the firm to produce its file but has a working file in its possession containing some of the firmís work product
  • Requires the greatest level of detail concerning the firmís charges and practices
  • Expects the fee dispute to end in adversarial proceedings

A bill review with partial work product is often the only choice in fee shifting cases. Although it does not provide the same level of detail as an audit, it does maximize the use of the available information.


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