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Will This Startup Change Legal Billing or Incite More Disputes?

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By William Peacock, Esq. on April 15, 2013 12:05 PM

So, we may have just mocked the use of the term "disruptor" as a played-out descriptor of companies that are attempting to revolutionize an industry, but a new legal billing startup really could be an industry disruptor - just not in the way that they'd hoped.

Viewabill is the startup world's solution to bill-churning (or overbilling) in the legal industry. It allows honest lawyers and firms (cue jokes) to transparently bill everything they do using an always-on platform that a client can access and audit 24/7, reports the New York Times.

The benefits of this are obvious: bill inflation is more difficult when a client can constantly monitor the bill and when each entry is detailed with sufficient information to satisfy the curious client. Clients can see when six useless new associates are tacked onto a case (and the bill) and question their necessity before it becomes an issue.

The service also has features like alerts, which will notify the client if the bill is exceeding a certain amount, as well as daily and weekly email updates, reports the New York Post.

Cool. Now, who wants to sign up first? Better yet, who wants the client probing every time entry and every task that you do, nagging you daily about the "too many hours" spent on document review, and "did you really need to spend six hours on that memo?"

BigLaw or solo practitioner, we've all dealt with the irritating client who disputes every item on the bill. You suffer through their whining for an hour or two, then handle the dispute appropriately. Imaging having that client contact you weekly, or even daily, to dispute entries.

There's a good chance that daily access to time entries will satisfy that client's curiosity and reduce billing disputes. Then again, there's a good chance that it leads to constant nagging.

It'll be interesting to see how this first wave of firms fare - Viewabill has signed on nearly 80 firms so far, according to the Times. The company also reached out to DLA Piper, the firm that was embarrassed by leaked "Churn that bill, baby!" emails that were latter classified as an "offensive and inexcusable effort at humor" by lawyers no longer employed by the firm. According to the Times, DLA Piper had no comment.

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