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When Litigation Budgets Aren’t Adequately Communicated

Litigation matter budgets can be a concern when hiring a law firm to perform any number of services. Communication between the client and the law firm is key- both sides must be updated of any cost-related issues that may arise. Moreover, it may be wise to designate a representative to handle all communications on each side. If a legal bill exceeds the client’s budget, the law firm should contact the client. Unfortunately, not all law firms adequately communicate issues and budget concerns with their clients.

For example, the Marquette County Board hired independent legal counsel who surpassed their budget by approximately $22,000. Stevenson, Keppelman and Associates of Ann Arbor was alleged to have been hired to review the county’s former retire-rehire program for IRS compliance and to provide recommendations for employees still working under the program’s provisions.

The Board reportedly expressed that the firm could spend up to $10,000. However, the county is said to have been billed $31,866 for approximately 119 hours of legal work. The firm appears to have exceeded their budget by three times the amount the county was prepared to pay.

Some charges make you wonder whether the firm actually tried to comply with the county’s budget. Two out of three legal bills is said to have surpassed the county’s budget, independent from one another. An April 29 bill charged 40.25 hours of legal work, totaling $11,602; a May 31 bill charged 24 hours of legal work, totaling $7,018; and a June 14 bill charged 55 hours of work, totaling $15,348.

The Board reportedly suspects that the problem behind these bills is the result of a lack a board representative to handle all communications with the law firm. Multiple board members were requesting services from the firm that were not approved by the Board, incurring greater costs for the county. The Board plans to discuss these bills and whether they will dispute the bills.

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