Sell outcomes, not hours
Three unspoken rules that explain how Wachtell gets away with sloppy time entries
Last week, an excerpt of Wachtell’s legal bills to Twitter made the rounds on social media. The bills were revealed as part of Elon Musk’s lawsuit against the firm. According to Reuters:
Lawyers for Musk’s X Corp, which owns Twitter, in a lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court last week took aim at 275-lawyer Wachtell. The firm last summer sued Musk in Delaware on Twitter's behalf in a bid to compel him to go through with his then-pending offer to buy the social media company for $44 billion.
For its work, Wachtell collected $90 million in legal fees from Twitter shortly before the company changed hands in October – and Musk’s lawyers are crying foul.
Unlike the time entry descriptions created by most law firm lawyers, the Wachtell time entries were incredibly vague. Take a look for yourself:
The billing doc spread throughout the legal community, and the reaction was visceral. For good reason. These time entries broke all the rules about time entries. They described very little about what type of work was actually done.
How did Wachtell get away with this? Isn’t the rule that when it comes to time entries, you always have to include detailed narratives around every piece of work you do? Not just a few words here and there.
When I saw this all happen I immediately thought: Unspoken Rule. In the legal profession, whenever there’s some surprising exception to the general rule, there’s always some related unspoken rule(s) at play. I thought about it over the weekend, and actually came up with three of them.
Before I get into it, I’ve got a few disclaimers. First, some of these rules are likely obvious to some of you. They might not be to a young lawyer or law student, but they might be to industry veterans. Second, I don’t have any conclusive proof or insider knowledge of any of what I’m about to say—it’s all speculation. If you’re someone with firsthand knowledge or context, please let me know in the comments or by DMing me.