I have written ten simple rules for honest billing that I have now adopted as my law firm’s policy.
1. Bill accurately and fairly and follow the “Golden Rule” – how would you want to be billed if you were the client?
2. Bill actual time spent and round up only a little. If you spend 3 minutes on a phone call, bill 0.10 instead of 0.25. If you literally were on the phone for 30 seconds with the client, do not bill for the call at all.
3. If you travel to court or elsewhere for more than one case, divide the travel time between the clients.
4. Do not bill for more than one client at once. If you are editing a pleading while sitting in court waiting to be called on another’s client case, only bill for one client during that period of time and do not ‘double bill.”
5. There is no reason to bring an additional lawyer or legal assistant (or both) to court or mediation unless they are truly needed. The client should not pay for two or three professionals at once unless there is an important reason for it.
6. Do not bill what you think another lawyer would bill for the task. If you draft the petition in 10 minutes, bill for 0.15 and not 1.0 (if the law firm’s contract allows rounding up to the nearest quarter hour, the attorney could bill 0.25 in this example).
7. Unless you are in trial or a mediation that goes to midnight, your total hours in a day cannot exceed 10.0 without a written explanation for the firm manager of how you were able to bill those many hours in one day.
8. Do not do work on a case that is not needed just because the client has money in trust or can afford to pay us.
9. False billing is wrong and unethical and will get you fired and reported to the State Bar by this law firm. We want to make money only by fairly billing our clients.
10. A staff member who sees something questionable about a lawyer’s billing must bring it to the attention of the law firm’s management.