How to Stop Silent Write-Downs

feature img stop silent write downs

What are silent write-downs?

The amount of publicly available information through internet research is growing exponentially. Parties and witnesses in a dispute may post information relevant to your case on social media and the open internet, and this information can expose a person’s conduct, character, credibility, and state of mind.

Firms are under increasing pressure to contain litigation costs, but it should come as no surprise that associates don’t always report an accurate amount of time spent on a legal research project. This is especially true in terms of social media research.  Here are a couple examples of where “silent write-downs” come into play:

  • Attorney doesn’t feel comfortable reporting three hours for something that should have taken one hour according to the lead partner on the case. Two billable hours are silently not recorded.
  • Attorney only meant to spend five minutes conducting a Google search on the witness. In reality it took him/her forty minutes. No time reported.

Many attorneys are conducting or authorizing social media research in-house instead of using a third-party service with the technology and expertise to handle these types of searches consistently and cost-effectively.

How much revenue is lost because of silent write-downs?

In the practice of law every minute of billable time counts. When it is not promptly and accurately recorded, the costs from lost revenue can be staggering. Consider the following scenario: A law firm has 150 associate attorneys within their litigation team.  The average billable rate per attorney is $300 per hour. Conservatively, one billable hour per month per attorney is silently not recorded for social media research. Extrapolating those numbers out over twelve months equates to $500k+ in lost revenue from silent write-downs:


Team Size

Time lost (Monthly)

Money Lost (Monthly)

Money Lost (Annually)


150 Associates

1 Hour



The Solution: Independent Experts

Had the firm used an outside service they could have passed this expense directly on to the client and the client would have received a superior work product for less money. In addition, the attorney, paralegal, librarian could use the extra time to bill out for a different value added service like drafting a brief or motion.

According to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys are expected to utilize technology, including social media, in order to provide competent and diligent representation to a client. One of the biggest challenges is that researching through social media can be incredibly time consuming. Furthermore, one must ensure social content is being accessed per ethics rules and guidelines

Let us know how your firm is avoiding silent write-downs of its internet research. Want more information about SMI’s social media investigation or preservation products? Please contact us or call (888) 299-9921 and one of our representatives will gladly assist you.

Featured image taken by Helloquence via Unsplash

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