Norton Rose Fulbright has accidentally circulated a confidential document to its staff revealing how much its lawyers have billed.

The embarrassing gaffe occurred last week. On Thursday, the firm's management erroneously circulated a pdf to all EMEA staff with details of billable hours clocked up per fee-earner. The sensitive data remained visible to staff for a day as a panicked IT team scrambled to remove the information, finally scrubbing it from everyone's server on Friday.

Although the mistake was eventually rectified, it was presumably sufficient time for nosy lawyers to have a glance at what their peers were billing. And also to discover which associates pretending to be shafted were punching out early.   


Mannequin

Despite always being at his desk, colleagues were shocked that Miles had only billed three hours this month.


“We experienced an internal IT systems glitch and took immediate steps to resolve the matter," said a Norton Rose Fulbright spokeswoman. She added "No client data was involved.”

NRF is not the only firm to have had a cock-up with its data recently. Earlier this month, Watson Farley & Williams had to remove a video from YouTube which exposed confidential client and partner information. While in August, Paul Hastings accidentally sent an email to its UK training contract applicants which revealed all the candidates' identities to each other. And in July a new Winkworth Sherwood partner came a cropper after failing to blind copy 600 contacts taken from his former firm in an email informing them of his move. 

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Comments

Bert & Ernie 18 October 19 07:57

Sadly, these blunders are becoming all to frequent. If the information relating to an individual’s billing (or any other personal data) is data under GDPR then shouldn’t the ICO have something to say about this matter (and the other recent matters involving other firms).

Curious 18 October 19 08:10

Many firms make this information available to employees and certainly other fee earners, it's not particularly embarrasing. 

Anonymous 18 October 19 08:15

Our firm has an open policy about hours recorded and billing, from Partners down to non-qualified staff.  I don't see why NRF lawyers feel the need to shroud themselves in secrecy.

Anon 18 October 19 08:24

Paul Roberts

It doesn’t provided it is only management who see it. The issue is that if it is disclosed more widely then problems can arise. If the billing relate to a partner who substantially works for one client then that clients bills can be estimated. The partners earning can also be estimated. Also, if widely distributed in the firm then the risk of an external leak is greater with the result that competitors may be able to access the data and client information (if they can be identified) made publicly available - especially if it is known that a partner’s billings relate to his or her main client.

John Q Anon 18 October 19 08:53

This story is out of touch. Loads and loads of firms give everyone access to this data in the name of transparency. I've worked at places that post it in the kitchens. 

It helps everyone see whether they are genuinely ahead of the curve or behind it and cuts the BS away from people at big firms who are getting free meals and taxis every night but effectively starting work at midday.

It also stops management from telling everyone they are a bit behind and that x next door is carrying them. 

What's the problem? 

Anon-y-mous 18 October 19 09:50

@08:24 At my firm every single member of staff can see every fee earner's billings and targets. I don't think this is unusual, it has happened at every firm I've been at (including an MC firm).

Anonymous 18 October 19 09:54

Echoing many other people above. The firm I work for has the figures for all fee earners freely available. It is not uncommon within a law firm. 

 

Mountain and mole hill.

Anonymous 18 October 19 10:48

Why embarrassing? This is normal in my firm - why shouldn’t you see the FP of your colleagues - helps to spread work and support, and also assess issues and growth. If anything the only embarrassing thing here is that NRF feel that being transparent about FP is a bad thing. Weird. 

FmrCityLawyer 18 October 19 12:14

"...If the billing relate to a partner who substantially works for one client then that clients bills can be estimated. The partners earning can also be estimated. Also, if widely distributed in the firm then the risk of an external leak is greater with the result that competitors may be able to access the data and client information (if they can be identified) made publicly available - especially if it is known that a partner’s billings relate to his or her main client..."

1. "If the billing relates to one client" - The firm absolutely should be able to estimate that clients' bills and everyone working on the client's matters will have an idea anyway of the monthly billing. #partnerprotection

2. "Risk of an external leak is greater" - No greater than for any of the other data which is currently accessible within your firm. If you don't circulate billing data because you rate as "high risk" the possibility of an external leak, you have bigger issues at your firm.

3. "Competitors may be able to access the data and client information" - Yes, often competitors in interviews will not ask questions like "What clients do you think will follow you if you leave?" and "What's your utilization like?"; Secondly, firms acting against NRF will also instantly forget who NRF's clients are the minute they finish acting against them. These competitors are known to wait for NRF to leak billing data and then check on RoF what they should do with it. 

4. "Partners earning can also be estimated" - BINGO! #partnerprotection                               Remember your 'purpose' kids - you do the billings, partners make the killings. 

Anonymous 18 October 19 12:14

Surprised at the number of downvotes for those observing how commonplace transparency of figures is at their firm. 

Ex NRF 18 October 19 14:00

I’m surprised anyone cares enough to vote up or down or post lengthy comments ... looks to me like someone (and I’m sure there are loads) doesn’t like NRF (the dislikes) and the NRF PR is glugging the Red Bull to keep their energy up neutralising this.

No one cares. It’s Friday. Be happy.

General Pinko 18 October 19 14:13

“What’s with all the downvoting?”

 

Friday sport to irritate NRF’s PR machine.

Looks like it’s working too.

Vera 18 October 19 16:16

Will people please stop hitting the dislikes so that the NRF comms team can go to the pub or go home.

Anon-y-mous 21 October 19 16:39

The downvoters are clearly folk who spend all day skiving, pad their time and then proceed to the pub. They don't want anyone to rumble them...

A pub goer 22 October 19 22:44

Absolutely spot on Anon-y-mous but at least it’s a better gig than peddling some PR-driven garbage to neutralise a mistake ... mine’s a cider!