Alan Dershowitz, Biglaw, Billable Hours, iPhone, Technology

Do You Want to Micromanage Your Lawyers? There’s an App for That!

‘I’m excited because I can see my lawyer hasn’t slept in three days!’

Let the micromanagement begin! Clients always complained about bills, but over the last several years, clients elevated their complaints to outright micromanagement, objecting to “block billing” and refusing to pay for internal team meetings, even on massive projects.

I’ve said before that this billing regime saps lawyers of valuable efficiency. Not that lawyers are perfect, but constantly stopping to parse out billing for every individual task creates a bigger waste.

Now clients have a new technological tool to intrude upon the workday….

Meet Viewabill. The Wall Street Journal describes this as a “nanny-cam” for lawyers. That seems a bit much — the app isn’t streaming video of associates reading Above the Law or banging their heads against their desks hoping for the sweet release of a concussion.

Viewabill allows a client to merge all its professional bills onto one platform, with hourly billing information entered by lawyers immediately transferring onto an app. Viewabill put together a video to demonstrate how it all works:

Is it possible to more subtly call lawyers mean scumbags? The client is a befuddled everyman working with a stern, mustachioed attorney. The lawyer first tries to crush the client with a massive weight straight out of the Acme warehouse, with results that would make Wile E. Coyote proud. Then the lawyer unleashes a “Surprise Monster” that looks vaguely like one of the Squidbillies — but not as scary.

Alan Dershowitz is listed as a co-founder of Viewabill. I’m going to rewatch Reversal of Fortune and imagine Dershowitz (played by the late Ron Silver) halting every 10 minutes to enter time during the high-profile attempted murder trial.

Ultimately, I’m not sure what the app offers that clients couldn’t achieve by simply asking for daily bills. The aggregation of all bills might be helpful for clients with a lot of irons in the fire at once, but that’s it.

But again, the real problem here is the overreaction to the inherent problem with billing hourly. Instead of finding a way around a system naturally fraught with lazy descriptions and vague, time-strained recollections, Viewabill falls into the trap of making it simpler to monitor. If you’re in the middle of a car crash, you don’t need a better view, you need to not crash.

On the other hand, maybe Viewabill will finally succeed in forcing firms to devise a better billing system to save themselves from micromanagement. But it’s more likely this Legal SkyNet will become self-aware and start terminating block billers.

Apps Help Find Lawyers, And Keep an Eye on Them [Wall Street Journal]
Viewabill Home Page

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