When internal pressures mount to cut the legal fees, here are 5 quick unacceptable billing practices to examine legal invoices for.
Block Billing: Billing time in increments that do not allow a billing coordinator to determine how much time is spent on each specific task is one of the most common practices to be on the lookout for. Entries that merely list a series of tasks, with an hour amount next to it, make it impossible for a client to figure out how long each task took and should be rejected until specificity is established.
Vague Billing Entries: When it is impossible to tell what work has been performed for a task entry, the entry should be objected to. Simply saying “attention to” or “reviewing file” doesn’t suffice. “Attention to” can mean any number of things, and actually performing legal work is only of those items. The client should be able to determine the exact nature of the work performed from the description.
Multiple Attorneys Present: A general rule of thumb to go by is that if there is more than one attorney at a meeting or deposition, they have to explain why both are needed (For example, if there is a bankruptcy and a labor issue two attorneys may be required). A question asked by one associate to another over lunch doesn’t mean they have a right to double bill for a conference (or lunch, for that matter)!
Overhead: A simple rule of thumb to use is this – if it’s a cost of a law firm doing business (not a LEGAL service that is paid for) than the cost is not something that can be billed to a client. For example, when buying staples in bulk to fasten a complaint that was filed, the time drafting that complaint is compensable, but the staples aren’t.
Excessive Minimum Billing Increments: The industry practice is to bill in tenth of an hour increments. Anything greater than tenth of an hour results in a padding of time and does not accurately reflect the amount of work. Using the excessive increments leads to unreasonably inflated fees.