DLA Piper scandal raises questions about billing

April 2, 2013 DLA Piper has a significant PR problem on its hands, after leaked emails showed associates joking about the size of legal fees. “THAT bill shall know no limits,” wrote one DLA Piper lawyer to another in 2010, a comment that the firm is eager to prove was just a harmless joke.

Some commentators are using the news to point out the failings of the billable hour as a charging system, like this article in the New York Times .

The article observes that while the system brings wealth to equity partners, it exhausts lawyers who have to work evenings and weekends to meet billings targets. The system can also be to the detriment of clients, since overworked lawyers are more prone to error.

Any solution, says the article “requires clients to press harder for alternative fee arrangements, courts to back away from policies that embed the billable hour, law firm leaders to stop rewarding excessive associate hours and senior partners to consider the deleterious consequences of their myopic focus on short-term profit-maximizing behavior.”

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