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Padding the hours (Part Two)

We had a client whose spouse was trying to run up his legal bill. She would file unnecessary motions. This required us to respond and show up in court to argue the motion. There was no validity to the motion. In fact, the other party generally did not show up at the motion hearing. If our client lost the motion, it would not affect the outcome of his case.

Seeing that there was no validity to these motions, I did a response that took fifteen minutes - basically saying the same thing that we had said in previous motions where we had prevailed. The senior attorney took 45 minutes making changes to my motion. She drove to the hearing, billing four hours. Not surprisingly, the other party did not show up at the motion hearing.

I would have billed fifteen minutes for the motion. I would have used court call for the motion hearing. It would have taken less than an hour. Our client was billed almost $2000 for this hearing. The other party kept filing these motions, seeing how much it cost our client. The bill was over $40,000 in the end.

I asked a partner if this was ethical. He responded that you had to spend more than fifteen minutes on a motion or clients get upset as it looks like you were not working hard on the case. You could get sued for malpractice.

I didn't argue with the partner, but no one would be upset at paying hundreds of dollars less. I wondered if the partner was lying to me or to himself. Either way, it was obvious the lengths attorneys will go to pad the hours in a case. The senior associate added forty-five minutes because she could. It did not help the client. But it cost him $300.

I could not practice law that way. Most attorneys would have done the same thing. You can see how it can get expensive to get divorced when your attorney is billing you by the hour.

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