Billing Abuse Scoreboard — Clients 1 BigLaw 0 (DLA Piper Folds ‘Em)
As Kenny Rogers croons in “The Gambler“:
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
It warmed the cockles of my heart to hear that DLA Piper has oh so meekly settled the now infamous “churn that bill, baby!” case.
Less than a month ago, DLA Piper was loudly professing its indignation at any possible billing irregularities occurring within its hallowed halls:
It is unfortunate that the unprofessional behavior of these lawyers by writing those e-mails has distracted attention away from the fact that a client refused to pay his bills.
One would think with such a strong hand, not to mention its reputation at stake, that DLA Piper would have gone to trial to prove its innocence. Heck, even Tim Bratton, GC of the Financial Times, and Adam Smith, Esq., guru to the BigLaw stars, were throwing out lifelines by suggesting that the emails were only “bad jokes” that say “nothing much at all about DLA Piper,” which is a “high calibre firm.” (See Bruce’s comment below – it appears only Tim would offer a lifeline to the S.S. DLA Piper.) Yet, within a month, all of DLA Piper’s bluster ended with a whimper – a quiet, confidential settlement.
So why cave with such a strong hand? First, as I’ve not bashfully suggested in my two previous posts, they didn’t have a strong hand, i.e., they were in fact overbilling, uh, I mean allegedly overbilling. But it’s one thing to say it, and quite another to see hard data demonstrating it. In a really bad development for DLA Piper – and all of BigLaw – that hard data now exists, and almost assuredly played a big part in DLA Piper deciding to fold ’em. Shortly before the case settled, and virtually unreported in news reports of the settlement, the defense team in the DLA Pipergate case retained the legal spend number crunchers, Sky Analytics, to provide actual data on DLA Piper’s billing practices. It doesn’t take a whole lotta brainpower to figure out who got the better end of this confidential deal:
- DLA Piper response: “No comment.”
- Client’s attorney: “Let me simply say we were very impressed with Sky Analytics’ work product and how quickly they were able to deliver those results.”
- Sky Analytics: “Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Sky Analytics is prohibited from disclosing any work product developed during its analysis.”
Just in case you still need a hint, the smart money is behind DLA Piper being taken behind the proverbial woodshed on this one. But clients, while celebration is in order for winning one against the dirty rotten scoundrels, you have to realize that you rarely get smoking gun emails and national news coverage when you are mauled by your favorite BigLaw firm. The good news, however, is that smart clients can now get their mitts on their own specific legal spend data, just like in DLA Pipergate. Even better news? How about getting some of that hard data intel on your firm(s) before you let them rob you blind. I’ve seen this data, grasshoppers, and trust me, its a game changer for clients.