Businesses receive invoices and billing statements from vendors all the time. Typically, they are checked for accuracy and passed on to the accounts payable department. It becomes a routine often taken for granted: Just the shuffle of paperwork.
But, when it comes to billing statements from your attorneys, you should be careful with the paperwork shuffle. Years ago statements from attorneys were simple; the sentence “For services rendered” and a total amount due. At most firms, the statements today are far more detailed, and include sensitive information about personnel issues and the communications and advice of counsel. In short, they contain information that is protected by the attorney-client privilege. Because most vendor’s invoices and billing statements are routine and not sensitive, it is easy to forget that statements from your attorneys are very sensitive. In order to protect the privilege it is important to not relinquish the detailed statements to people who do not need the detailed information, i.e., office manager, A/P clerk, accountant or other third parties. Once you provide the detailed information to anyone other than those within your organization with the “clearance” to view them and a need to be involved, you risk waiving your attorney-client privilege.
Protecting our clients’ businesses and organizations is our top priority. That is why we remind our clients to carefully review the processing of attorney billing statements and ensure that the attorney-client privilege is not inadvertently waived.