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You're so billable to me.

If you've ever worked in a law firm, as I have, you know that the temptation to pad bills by inflating estimates of time worked is hard to resist. After all, the lawyer knows his success depends on his total number of billable hours. And it is hard for a client to know whether the lawyer's estimate is accurate or not. Sometimes, even lawyers who are meticulously honest have their hours inflated by senior partners who can benefit from over-billing.

A recent example is provided by Matthew Farmer of the Chicago firm of Holland & Knight, LLP. He accused the firm's billing partner of having inflated the bill to his client, Pinnacle Corp., for which he had won a major case. When the firm failed to act on his accusation, he resigned and left for another firm, even though it meant taking a reduction in pay.

A law professor named William Ross has conducted a study of over-billing. He tells The Wall Street Journal's Nathan Koppel that two-thirds of the attorneys he surveyed reported knowledge of bill padding. How's a client to know, he asked, "whether an attorney spent three hours doing research instead of five hours?"
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Title Annotation:Tilting at Windmills; law firms
Author:Peters, Charles
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2006
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