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John’s books are designed to help you save on legal costs whether it be reviewing legal bills or hiring a lawyer. And whether you are a legal professional or someone who is simply trying to manage their own legal costs, these books will provide you with invaluable insights and practical tips to help you take control of your legal expenses.
Few lawyers see anything wrong with the way they bill their clients. But as set out in the book, not only do clients but also many legal ethics experts and bar association leaders think that lawyer overbilling has been and continues to be a major problem.
“Overbilling” can refer to any type of billing irregularity ranging from simple unintentional math errors to outright fraud and everything in between. But whether it is unintentional or intentional, there are ways to go about detecting lawyer overbilling. And that is what this book is all about.
While the book details how to spot and deal with common billing issues, the basic purpose is not to focus on particular billing issues. Rather, the main purpose is to provide the basic methodology to use in auditing or reviewing any legal bill. For if a client understands the basic methodology involved in how to go about reviewing legal bills, then they will know how to effectively deal with any type of billing issue encountered.
Call this book “Legal Bill Audit 101.” And while this book was written primarily for the benefit of non-lawyers, it is believed that even lawyers will find this book to be of value. For over the years, the author has worked with a number of lawyers to help them sort out the legal fees of clients who come to them because they have questions about fees charged by another lawyer.
This book is a more in-depth look at certain legal billing issues. Call it “Legal Bill Audit 201.” This book takes a look behind some of the common and not-so-common billing issues to see what important warning signals attorneys may be inadvertently sending.
So just what kind of things can red flags signal?
Some red flags can signal that the lawyer is trying to deceive the client in his billing and possibly in other areas as well. Or certain red flags may indicate that the lawyer lacks the experience or the competence needed to be able to handle the matter to a successful conclusion. And some red flags may indicate that the lawyer lacks adequate staff to cost-effectively handle the matter or that the attorney is just not that interested in helping to hold down legal costs. As explained in the book, far better to notice and to check out these red flag issues early on as they occur rather than wait till the end when faced with an unsatisfactory result or significantly more legal expense than originally anticipated.
As explained in the book, observing an isolated issue in a legal bill can, but does not always, raise a red flag. But observing the same issue multiple times in a legal bill may be more of a warning that triggers the red flag. These red flags are signals that raise a cause for concern about something beyond the billing issue itself. That something may otherwise go undetected but for the signal the red flag is sending.
Large corporate clients generally have a lot of economic leverage to use in getting attorneys they want and also in dictating terms to those attorneys about how they should bill for their services. On the other hand, individuals and small business clients often have little economic leverage but and little knowledge about how to hire the right lawyer and negotiate a fee agreement that will save on legal costs.
But just because individual and small business clients may not have the economic leverage of large corporate clients does not mean that they have no rights. And while they do have certain rights, these rights must be tempered by what is and is not practical to do when it comes to hiring a lawyer or negotiating a fee agreement. Nevertheless, as this book explains, there are certain things that absolutely must be included or excluded in an attorney fee agreement. These terms are so important that, in fact, if they are not included or excluded, the client should not sign the fee agreement, but seek out another attorney.
This book is not intended to be a complete guide to hiring an attorney or to negotiating an attorney fee agreement. Rather, this book takes more of a rifle approach and addresses just certain issues that can affect legal costs. In so doing, the book takes care to address only those issues that are practical for both individual and small business clients to address when looking to hire an attorney or negotiating an attorney fee agreement.
When confronted with questionable legal bills that a lawyer refuses to reduce or to satisfactorily explain, a client can hire another lawyer to represent the client in the billing dispute. But if a client wants to pursue the matter on his own, then by following what is set out in this Guide, a client will have the basic tools needed to successfully resolve a fee bill dispute directly with a lawyer.
Specifically, the Guide sets out the basics of how to determine if the client has adequate grounds to approach a lawyer about irregularities in the lawyer’s legal bills. The Guide then lays out the steps a client should follow to try to satisfactorily resolve the dispute with a lawyer, including how objections should be stated. Other topics in the Guide include what to do about an inaccurate estimate of costs, and what to do about legal fees that have already been paid.
If a client cannot reach a satisfactory resolution with the lawyer, the Guide sets out the next steps the client may take, including whether it may be appropriate to contact others in the law firm as well as other steps including mediation or arbitration. The Guide explains each of these steps in detail. The Guide also covers the “nuclear” option: filing a disciplinary complaint against the lawyer.