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Padding the Hours (Part 1)

Here is an example of a common billing practice of attorneys. Attorneys produce documents for the court called memorandums. In family law especially, these documents are often very similar in content. Sometimes you just have to change the names and a couple of facts.

An attorney spends two hours doing a memorandum. He bills the client for two hours. He does a similar memorandum for a different client using the template of the first memorandum. He finishes the memorandum in thirty minutes. How much does he bill?

Every attorney I have talked to said he would bill for two hours, the time it took to write the original memorandum.

Is this ethical? No. The attorneys' argument is that it is a two-hour job. The client should not benefit from the attorney's previous work. If the attorney does a third memorandum and takes three hours. He bills the client for three hours. Ethically, the attorney should only bill for time spent on the client's case.

This is just another example of how using billable hours causes billing problems. This is also why I will never use billable hours for myself or any employee. It might be necessary in some areas of the law, but never in family law. I can almost guarantee if you are being billed by the hour by your family law attorney you will be over-billed, double billed, or billed for work that did not need to be done. It is a bad system that is too easy to abuse.

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