I am an in-house attorney for a company that manages troubled loans and other assets for its own account and for financial institutions ("The verdict: Guilty of overcharging," Legal Affairs, Sept. 6). One of the functions of my staff is monitoring the law firms we employ.
From my experience, problems with law firms vary from innocent mistakes to apparent gouging. Below is a sampling of some of the problems we find.
--Overstaffing: A partner does work that should be delegated to an associate or even a paralegal, billing at lower rates. A paralegal might do secretarial work (such as calling a clerk and setting a hearing date) and bill for the time.
--Churning: Numerous people work on a routine file, have internal conferences, and all bill the client. On many matters, it is impossible for more than two lawyers to work together efficiently.
--Suit-happy: Some lawyers routinely suggest filing suit before they have analyzed the problem fully. Even if you win a trial, does the defendant have the resources to pay? Can you prove your case? Filing suit in such instances often is a waste of time and money.
Richard G. Pratt
Your article brought out some valid points. But what you don't understand is that you often get what you pay for. Savings can result in undesirable legal results. What it comes down to is understanding the service you are buying. Efforts to forge a trusting relationship between the company and legal firm should be established. In this way, cost benefits and quality legal work can both be achieved.