Here’ something very important to know about resolving legal bill disputes that maybe your lawyer does know. In any dispute over a legal bill with a client, the ethics of the legal profession as well as “black letter” law very clearly provide that the “burden of proof” is squarely on the attorney. See Restatement (Third) of the Law Governing Lawyers (2007)Sec. 42(2) Remedies and Burden of Persuasion (“In any (fee adjudication), the lawyer as the burden of persuasion.”); Hensleyv. Eckerhart,461U.S.424(1983)(U.S. Supreme Court holding that the attorney claiming a fee bears the burden “to “prove and establish the reasonableness of each dollar, each hour, above zero.”).
What does this mean as a practical matter? What it means is that it is not up to you to prove that you have been overcharged or were billed incorrectly for certain work done. Rather it is up to the lawyer to prove that you were billed correctly and that the fees and costs charged to you were reasonable and correctly billed.
Another important point is that in proving that his fees and costs were reasonable and correctly billed to you, the attorney must be able to prove it by providing “satisfactory evidence.” What this means is that the attorney cannot just rely upon his own subjective statements (“the charges are reasonable because I say so”).
What attorneys must provide to support their billed for fees is “satisfactory evidence” to support their claim that an objected to fee or cost is reasonable and should be paid. For example, if the attorney billed 15 hours to you in one day, he must provide “satisfactory evidence” (i.e., documentation such as time sheets or office building in-out records) to support that he was actually in the office for 15 hours and that he actually spent that time working on your matter. See Farbotko v. Clinton Cnty of N.Y., 433 F.3d 204, 209 (2d Cir. 2005)( the fee applicant has the burden of showing by “satisfactory evidence — in addition to the attorney’s own affidavits” that the requested fees are reasonable.”).
Now that you know how the ethics of the legal profession work to protect you in fee billing disputes and that the burden of proof is on the lawyer in fee billing disputes, all that you need to confront your lawyer on suspected over charges is to have your legal bills audited. An audit by LegalBillAudit.com will provide you with all the reasons why you may have been improperly billed for services. And it all starts with a free evaluation. So, what are you waiting for?