Using Web Tools to Control Legal Bills

It is a challenging time for corporate law firms. The recession has shrunk legal budgets, and big clients are increasingly pressing lawyers to provide the same level of service at a reduced cost.

Rarely known for their technological savvy, law firms are nonetheless turning to technology to try to address clients’ cost concerns. Some are rolling out budgeting tools to keep better tabs on expenses. Others are using software to automate tasks.

“Firms are starting to recognize that clients are not willing to pay for a custom-made suit when all they really need are jeans and a t-shirt,” says Jeffrey Carr, the general counsel of FMC Technologies Inc., a Houston-based oil services and technology firm.

One longtime gripe about law firms is that their costs are hard to predict. Typically, firms bill by the hour, and they often are hard-pressed, at the inception of a matter, to estimate how many hours they will take to complete assignments.

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