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LawBiz® TIPS – Week of May 10, 2016

Billing: Problematic Issues

If you think that billing is easy, you have not thought about the specifics carefully enough.

Overlapping Court Appearances
How should you bill when you’re going to court on the same day, in the same courtroom, for more than one client? A problem arises if the clients believe that they are being billed for time, but you are billing by the task. The way to handle this situation is simple: advise your clients up front of your billing methodology.

Travel for Out-of-Town Meetings
Transactional lawyers sometimes charge one client for their travel time and, while traveling, charge another client for work done en route. Clearly, if the attorney is charging by the hour, then the “double billing” that would occur on an airplane if the attorney were to charge multiple clients for the same time is unacceptable. But the attorney could have a policy, clearly explained to the client prior to the engagement, that the client will be charged a flat fee for travel time irrespective of work performed during the travel.

Improved Technology
The cost of the high-technology equipment and additional staff must be paid for somehow, and most service providers pass that amortized cost on to the customers or clients. Quite simply, it makes sense for many attorneys to develop a laundry list of predetermined charges in addition to the hourly billing standard. These billings generally have been found to be acceptable and ethical as long as the client is informed in advance.

Reused Work Product
Letters and documents such as pleadings and contracts can be created from earlier matters handled by the attorney. However, the question is how the attorney should charge for the second or third matter if the work utilizes recycled documents. Most service providers pass the amortized cost of reused work product on to the customers or clients, which is generally considered acceptable and ethical as long as the client is informed in advance.



Billing: Problematic Issues

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