So, how did lawyers bill for their services before clocks were invented? Did early Roman lawyers use sundials to keep track of their time? Hardly.
History records that early lawyers (“advocates”) in the Roman Empire (as well as in ancient Greece) were expected to represent their fellow citizens in legal matters for free. Such service was viewed a being part of the lawyers’ civic duty for which they did not receive any compensation.
It was not until the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius in 10 B.C. that Roman lawyers for the first time were officially permitted to charge a fee for their services. The Emperor also decreed a “fee table” which set out maximums that lawyers would be permitted to charge.
Through the centuries, countries around the world including the U. S. followed the Roman example and enacted statutes setting out “fee tables” that provides what lawyers could charge for their services. These statutory fee tables, however, were eventually replaced by bar mandated minimum fee schedules.
Bar fee schedules were struck down in 1974 by the U.S. Supreme Court as being in violation of federal anti-trust laws. Thus, all lawyers are now free to do as the ancient Roman lawyers did and charge nothing for their services!