The Devil's Advocate may be contacted as follows.
Devil's Advocate, LLC, is also known as TLF Consulting. Please do not send confidential materials, bills, or other large documents without prior discussion.
Devil's Advocate is privately registered with the Central Contractor Registration online system maintained by the GSA. Our information can be obtained through CCR search from any US government network computer. Our cage number is 641H4.
We also work with state and local government agencies.
We quote our fees based on a number of factors, depending on the situation. Important factors include the size of the project, format of the materials to review, deadlines, scope of the review and issues, other documentation to review, billing guideline terms, location, and so on. We seek reasonable compensation in proportion to our effort and the value of our services.
The Devil's Advocate's offers a variety of fee alternatives. Although hourly fees may be the norm for many lawyers, some of our engagements lend themselves to flat rates, percentage fees, retainers, or hybrids, depending on the circumstances. Devil's Advocate does not charge contingent fees for consulting services.
The Devil's Advocate passes through some out of pocket or unusual expenses at cost, but does not bill clients for many routine expenses charged by law firms. The primary out of pocket expenses are usually travel expenses for testimony.
We discuss our fees up front. Details regarding our representation, including our fees, are normally reduced to a written agreement with each client.
The Devil's Advocate does not charge for initial consultations, prior to engagement.
Do not disclose or forward us any confidential
information until we have reached a written retention agreement and our initial
fee has been paid.
Some of our best friends, clients, and even some employees are lawyers. In examining legal fees, The Devil's Advocate always works to determine what a reasonable fee would be, using the available information, regardless of who hires us. Unlike other bill "auditors," we are independent and do not always work for the same "side" in a fee dispute. We are sometimes hired to challenge a fee and sometimes to support the reasonable portion of a fee.
Some of our competitors are owned or controlled by insurance companies, for example, so you know where they have to come out to protect their jobs. (It is probably for this reason that many of these companies' affiliations are hidden from the general public and most law firms.)
Before we will even take an engagement, we need to know enough about the situation to satisfy ourselves that our services are likely to be cost-effective. We turn down many more potential engagements than we take.
Even when we "support" a legal fee, we rarely find that 100% of the requested fee is reasonable by all standards. Just as few things are perfect, so it is with legal bills. But how much of a bill is unreasonable or improper for other reasons depends upon a thorough analysis, using the information at our disposal.
We have been retained both by clients and by law firms, as well as by insurance companies, government agencies, and others. In addition to supporting fee claims, we have been retained by law firms whose fees we have examined in the past.
We strive to avoid having a bias or pre-judging any fee. Don't hire us unless you can handle the unvarnished truth.
While we can assist our clients to find and retain a lawyer who "fits" their situation in the right jurisdiction, we do not maintain a list of good or bad lawyers. Finding the right lawyer depends on your circumstances. Lawyers move around, firms and lawyers change, and selecting the right lawyer begins, and does not end, with a list of potential candidates. Nor can we guarantee any lawyer or firm, let alone the results they may achieve. Nor do we endorse or approve any lawyer or law firm -- anyone who implies otherwise is mistaken.
The short answer is no. We work for corporations, individuals, associations, governments and agencies, and unions, but no devils.
Most people recognize the phrase "devil's advocate" as referring to someone who asks tough questions, usually from different or unpopular perspectives, taking nothing for granted, and treating nothing as sacred. The term actually comes from the Roman Catholic Church, which used to appoint an official "devil's advocate" to challenge defects in the evidence supporting canonization of a candidate for sainthood. Even potential saints have to be questioned. Here's a short piece from NPR explaining the history.
We chose this name as an apt description of our role -- lawyers are not saints, though many people, including unhappy clients, may treat their bills as sacred. We look for the hard evidence that supports, or negates, the reasonableness of a fee. We ask hard questions. In doing so, we do not expect to win any popularity contest, even though our reports and testimony regularly win the dispute. We take a certain pride in noting that many who don't like our conclusions choose to attack us personally -- ad hominem -- to distract attention from their inability to refute us on the merits.
Note for the Reality-Challenged, Part I: Reflecting the inadequacy of some aspects of our educational system, we occasionally receive communications from people who assume that The Devil's Advocate means we work for the devil -- the aggressively ignorant even attempt to capitalize on the ignorance of others by fostering that misconception. As ignorance generally subsumes the absence of rudimentary logical skill, we have had little luck pointing out that, if there were a devil and we were actually employed by him, we would hardly have to resort to such crude tools as hard work, written reports, and testimony to accomplish our objectives when a simple lightening bolt or middling earthquake would do. For those with neither intellect nor sense of humor, we can confirm without fear of contradiction that we do not now nor have we ever been employed, directly, indirectly, or supernaturally, by any citizen of the netherworld.
Note for the Reality-Challenged, Part II: We are in no way associated with the movie known as "The Devil's Advocate," starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reaves. Those visitors to our web-site who are looking for information about the movie, seeking autographs, or who have a movie script or concept to peddle, will not find comfort here. We not only pre-date the movie, but we also own the federally-registered trademark for the name.
Caveat Emptor: All "legal bill audits" and "auditors" are not equal, or even real.
Beware of any firm claiming to perform "legal bill audits" or to have a computer program that can review legal bills: If it's too easy or cheap to be true, steer clear. No software program can locate the primary problems in most legal bills, because the biggest problem usually isn't what's in the bill, but what has been left out. Another warning sign is that the firm claims proprietary methods or systems -- for an example of a catastrophe caused by someone calling himself a legal bill auditor, follow this link. It is especially suspicious when an "auditor" claims an ability to review bills without examining work product or background information. Accountants and other non-lawyers do not have relevant experience and cannot review the guts of a legal bill. Inexperienced lawyers cannot provide useful insight into a bill either.
To reduce their legal fee bills, some companies perform what they call a bill "audit" on most or all of their incoming legal bills, usually employing software or inexperienced personnel. These are typically cursory reviews applying arbitrary rules to the bills that may or may not be real billing standards. (This is easier if the lawyer has agreed to abide by billing guidelines imposed by the client.) The objective of these tools is to reduce legal bills for financial reasons, often using arbitrary or simplistic standards, and they are therefore easily evaded once the lawyer figures out how this particular game is played. These are "nickel and dime" audits, which DA does not perform. Indeed, we are sometimes retained to rebut them.
Another problem arises when an incompetent, misleading, or defective legal bill "audit" is used to deflect criticism of bills or mislead the public into thinking the bills have been rigorously examined the way we examine them. These cursory and primitive -- even fake -- reviews are common, for example, in some bankruptcy courts, where debtors' counsel and bankruptcy courts use them to make trivial adjustments (often a few percent or less of the total bill) to camouflage much bigger problems. These faux reviewers are called "rubber-stampers" because they are purporting to vouch for the bill, often sight unseen or with little serious review. We don't perform fake reviews or allow our reputation to be abused in this fashion. Unfortunately some of our would-be competitors are not above misrepresenting what we do or stealing material from our books and articles, as well as this website, and passing it off as their own.
There are even clubs or associations used to invent fake or misleading credentials for those claiming expertise in legal bill examination, with little or no substantial experience or expertise. A new fad seems to be inventing certificates that self-appointed groups confer on themselves or gullible people with money to declare themselves to be legal bill "auditors" or the like. (This is reminiscent of the faux "Super Duper Best" lawyer credentials that so many lawyers seem to crave these days.) With real world experience and credentials, DA does not participate in such schemes. DA is independent and follows the standards and methods required by law, as it has pioneered for decades now.
Since 1993, we have reviewed well over $1 billion in legal fees from all over the US and other parts of the world (we do not keep or publish such statistics and the total is actually much more, but it is apparently the fashion these days to quote such numbers to impress potential clients), we have testified many times, we have written the definitive articles and books on the subject, and we handle the largest, most complex fee disputes. We have also been hired by some of the same law firms that we have challenged in other reviews -- our methods and opinions are persuasive. Devil's Advocate has extensive experience and understands the legal profession and litigation. You'll find that our services are superior in both cost and quality.
The Real Thing: Beware of people abusing our name.
We understand that some lawyers, clients, and others have invoked our name to gain leverage in fee and other disputes with other lawyers (or proponents of legal fees). The idea is apparently to use DA as the "boogeyman" to induce settlement or abandonment of a claim. First off, DA does not render opinions until we've done an analysis and actually reached at least preliminary conclusions -- and we often support bills as long as they are reasonable.
Of even greater concern, it seems that these incidents are just outright scams perpetrated by people claiming to have consulted with or hired us who have, in fact, not actually consulted with, retained or paid us. They want to use our name without our knowledge or permission, which not only steals from us, but gives people funny ideas about our methods and conclusions, damaging our reputation. Our name, reputation, materials, and work product are valuable and protected by law, including federal trademark and copyright law.
If someone tells you they have hired us or that we have rendered opinions, they may not be telling you the truth. We'd be happy to hear all about it -- and vindicate our rights. We'll tell you if we have a real conflict of interest.
Updated: 13 Nov 2013
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Visit Devil's Advocate for legal fee management and litigation consulting, including legal bill reviews, expert testimony, attorney malpractice, and lawyer ethics issues
eywords: The Devil's Advocate, John Toothman (founder), legal fee management, litigation consulting, trial lawyers, legal fee analysis, controlling legal costs, legal cost control, lawyer cost management, legal expense management, alternative legal fees, trial practice, civil litigation, discovery, American Rule, client, lawyer, legal fees, attorney fees, hiring lawyers, attorneys, expert witness, expert testimony, lawyer bill, legal fee invoices, litigation management, fee petitions, bankruptcy, legal bill audit, legal bill review, fee shifting, prevailing party, legal expenses, second opinions, monitoring counsel, legal fee budgets, legal fee estimates, legal malpractice, audit legal bills, general counsel, independent counsel, hourly rates, hourly fees.
Publications include: To Get Paid, Get Reasonable, Trial Practice Checklists (West Group); Legal Fees: Law and Management (Carolina Academic Press), CGL, Civilian's Guide to Lawyers, Client Bill of Rights, Client-friendly billing agreement, hourly fees.
Headquarters in Great Falls, Northern Virginia, USA, in the Metropolitan Washington DC (District of Columbia) area.