General counsel fight law firm bills for photocopies, food

In-house lawyers argue that such expenses are part of a firm’s overhead, not costs to be passed on to clients

In the midst of a recession, cost-cutting is a top priority for many corporate legal departments. And general counsel looking to pinch pennies have turned their attention to outside legal spending, namely bills from their law firm partners, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported Monday.

Often at issue are “soft costs,” which include expenses such as research database fees and word processing and photocopying costs. Many law firm clients argue that these expenses are part of a firm’s overhead, and not the financial responsibility of the client. Faced with these costs, many GCs are pushing back—or refusing to pay altogether, according to a Mattern & Associates study cited by the WSJ.

Alanna Byrne

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