Recently, I made a stab at getting caught up on my reading. Included in my pile of reading material from the past several months was a newsletter from the Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company of Kentucky (LMICK).
The reason I had put the LMICK newsletter aside to read when I had time was that I noted that several pages were devoted to legal billing issues. Coming at it from a “risk management” prospective, the newsletter admonished attorneys to engage in “good billing practices” and “avoid common billing mistakes.”
Here were just some of the “billing mistakes” listed by LMICK:
- Client gets a large bill that is the first thing the client has heard from the lawyer since the initial interview.
- The bill is as big as the client’s file – looks like over-practicing the matter.
- Secret identities – no names and no billing rates for the work done.
- Over-qualified personnel for the work or conversely charging lawyer rates for administrative work.
- Too many meetings, telephone calls, and research hours – looks like over-practicing the matter.
- Billing for several lawyers reviewing or preparing to discuss the file – looks like over-practicing the matter.
- Billing for several lawyers attending a meeting when one would have been adequate – looks like over-practicing the matter.
- Itemized bills with generic terms such as “phone call” or “meeting” with no substantive information.
- All telephone calls take exactly .2 hour; all dollar amounts are nice round number or end in five.
What I found really interesting was the LMICK’s list of “billing mistakes” included the same things I so often find when reviewing legal bills. But when confronted with these “billing mistakes,” many attorneys will push back and try to claim that they see nothing wrong with the way they bill.
In the future, when an attorney tells me that he doesn’t see a problem in billing for something that a lower billing associate or paralegal could have done, I think I will very strongly suggest that the attorney check with his malpractice insurer on that issue. Better still (as I am such a nice guy), if the attorney will give me the name of the firm’s malpractice insurer, I will do it for the attorney. Having worked with malpractice insurers, I know that they just love to collect risk information on their insureds.
Unfortunately, the LMICK’s list of billing mistakes does not come close to listing all of the common billing mistakes I find in legal bills. If you belileve your legal bills contain mistakes, LegalBillAudit.com offers a FREE evaluation on a single legal bill or a series of legal bills (relating to the same matter) that total $50,000 or more. To request a fee evaluation, go to the “Request an Evaluation” page and follow the instructions.