'Churn that Bill, Baby!' Rare DLA Piper Emails Reveal Culture of Overbilling at Law Firms
An affidavit has surfaced in which lawyers at the world's largest law firm trade casual e-mails about running up legal bills for a client. One attorney jokes "that bill shall know no limits." Another described a colleague's approach to the assignment as "churn that bill, baby!"
It's not every day you read documentary evidence of possible churning -- the creation of unnecessary work to drive up a client's bill. But that appears to be what The New York Times found in a Manhattan Supreme Court filing last week involving the law firm DLA Piper.
DLA Piper is in a fee dispute with client Adam H. Victor, an energy industry executive. DLA Piper sued Mr. Victor for $675,000 in unpaid legal bills. Then Mr. Victor filed a counterclaim, accusing the law firm of a "sweeping practice of overbilling."
Do law firms inflate bills by performing superfluous tasks and overstaffing assignments? Here are some highlighted portions of DLA Piper's emails:
"I hear we are already 200k over our estimate -- that's Team DLA Piper!" wrote Erich P. Eisenegger, a lawyer at the firm, the Times reports.
"Now Vince has random people working full time on random research projects in standard 'churn that bill, baby!' mode. That bill shall know no limits," replied another DLA Piper lawyer, Christopher Thomson, noting that a third colleague, Vincent J. Roldan, had been enlisted to work on the matter.
A DLA Piper spokesman told TheTimes the firm did not comment on pending litigation.