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62 Def. Counsel J. 583 (1995)
How Times Have Changed: A Systematic Approach to Billing

handle is hein.journals/defcon62 and id is 585 raw text is: How Times Have Changed:
A Systematic Approach to Billing
No more flying by the seat of your pants when you bill clients.
Now bills must be detailed, and supervising attorneys must be vigilant

ONCE upon a time, when a law firm resolved a
matter and concluded its representation, it sim-
ply mailed the client a bill, which usually con-
sisted of an amount preceded by a one-line de-
scription: For Services Rendered. But today,
in all but a few instances, law firms prepare
elaborate bills periodically during representa-
tion, often monthly or quarterly, providing de-
tailed descriptions of all services.
The current billing procedure used by most
law firms at their client's request is simple
enough to summarize. Each biller records the
time expended for a given task along with a
description of the services rendered. Once a
month, these billing entries are gathered, and
internal pre-bills are printed. A supervising at-
torney reviews them, editing descriptions and
time charged. Some supervising attorneys take
this step seriously and perform a detailed re-
view of fee and cost billing. Others simply send
the bill to the client unaltered, thereby poten-
tially breaching the duty imposed by the first
sentence of Rule 1.5(a) of the American Bar
Association Model Rules of Professional Con-
duct: A lawyer's fee shall be reasonable.
Lawyers and law firms can avoid the litiga-
tion and notoriety that arises from billing dis-
putes by carefully describing the hours ex-
pended and costs incurred on the client's be-
half. Failure to record time accurately and to
describe the work performed sometimes causes
a client to lose confidence and occasionally en-
genders continuing disputes.
Clients voice concern over fees and costs
that appear excessive, unreasonable, duplica-
tive or unnecessary. When a concern arises, cli-
ents usually request the supervising attorney
(and possibly other billers who worked on the
file) to justify the work and expenses. Many
client complaints associated with perceived
overbilling can be eliminated if attorneys fol-

Brad Malamud is president of Legal Cost
Consultants Inc. of Los Angeles, which advises
companies and individuals with respect to legal
cost containment. He is a graduate of the Uni-
versity of California at Berkeley (B.S. 1974),
Hastings College of the Law (J.D. 1977) and
New York University School of Law (LLM.
1979). His practice is limited to auditing and
litigating fee disputes between insurers and in-
dependent or panel counsel.
low the suggestions below, but this article does
not address instances of improper case manage-
ment and overstaffing, which are common
causes of overbilling.
Clients often are frustrated by billing state-
ments from which they can neither determine
what work was performed nor why it was justi-
fied. This frustration most frequently occurs
when a biller:
* Provides inadequate billing descriptions;
 Uses minimum billing increments (for in-
stance, quarter hours) that overstate the actual
time expended;
* Pads time (bills time greater than the time
actually expended);
* Stacks repetitive, non-descriptive billing
* Repeatedly employs identical billing de-
scriptions without identifying any specific work
0 Bills for work that should fall within his or
her expertise (evident when a client is billed for
the training of junior attorneys or paralegals);
* Duplicates the effort of another biller.
What philosophy should the supervising at-
torney employ to eliminate billing problems?
The goal of every biller should be to con-
form descriptions of services rendered to the
standard established in California for so-called
Cumis independent counsel in Center Founda-

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