Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Interesting post on the WSJ Law Blog: Study Suggests Significant Billing Abuse:
There’s a whole lot of bill padding going on ─ according to a just-completed billing survey (link unavailable) by William G. Ross, a professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law who specializes in billing ethics. Ross polled 5,000 attorneys from various walks of life throughout the country, and 251 responded. He worked with Reed Business Information to generate a random sampling of lawyers who work at law firms. Two-thirds said they had “specific knowledge” of bill padding ─ a finding virtually identical to one reached by Ross in a 1995 billing survey. Also, 54.6% of the respondents (as compared with 40.3% in 1995) admitted that they had sometimes performed unnecessary tasks just to bump up their billable output. Ross says that bill padding involves invoicing a client for work never performed — or exaggerating the amount of time spent on a matter—- while unnecessary work is that which “exceeds any marginal utility” to a client. ...
And then there is the matter of “double billing,” an oft-debated topic. Here’s the issue: A New York lawyer travels to Pittsburgh to attend a hearing for Client A, billing the client for her travel time. But on the plane she also bills Client B for reviewing a brief in B’s case. Courts, academics, and the American Bar Association, Ross says, almost uniformly frown on doubling billing. But the percentage of attorneys who admitted that they had double billed rose from 23% in 1996 to 34.7% in 2007. And only 51.8% regarded the practice as unethical in 2007, as compared with 64.7% in 1995.