“One of the most egregious forms of overbilling in many law firms is the almost infinite amount of time that is expended upon research into even the most minute legal issues.” William G. Ross, The Honest Hour, (Carolina Academic Press) at p. 113.
Have you ever hired a lawyer based upon the lawyer’s claimed expertise in the law involved in the matter and then gotten a big bill for research into the same law in which the lawyer had claimed an expertise? If you have, you are not alone.
Overbilling for research is one of the most common issues I come across in legal bill audits. And it seems to be the larger the law firm, the greater the likelihood there is for overbilling for research. But overbilling for research can occur in any size law firm.
Because of the potential for abuse in research in any size law firm, most company litigation or billing guidelines provide that research over a certain length of time (e.g., one hour) be approved in advance. Beyond that requirement, there is often no or little guidance given on the issues of when there is an actual need for research and who will do the research notwithstanding the size or scope of the legal research project.
So here are some tips to follow when questioning an attorney about his need to do research . . .
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