Did you hear the one about the lawyer who bought a new pair of shoes and charged the client $190 for “local travel?”
There’s no punchline... it actually happened.
How could this be? Aren’t attorneys respected professionals? Don’t they have ethical obligations?
What about when a lawyer bills two clients for the same hour of work? Yes, you heard that right. It’s called double billing, and it’s not uncommon. And you, the client, would never know it because you are seeing only your bill, not the other client’s bill or all of the lawyer’s time charged on that day. If you are outraged by that, you are not alone -- at least not in the business world.
But, sadly, many attorneys don’t share your opinion. Two facts came to light in a 2007 Samford University Law School survey. In 1996, 35.3 percent of lawyers believed double billing was ethical. Just 11 years later, in 2007, 48.2 percent of lawyers believed double billing was ethical.¹ Now, another 12 years removed, it would not be surprising to learn that the percentage of lawyers who believe double billing is ethical and acceptable has exceeded the 50 percent mark.
Are all lawyers and law firms like this? No. The glimmer of hope is in the attorneys who do see double billing as unethical.
¹ Business Insider, July 10, 2013, 10 Ways Lawyers Rip Off Clients, https://www.businessinsider.com/10-ways-lawyers-rip-off-clients-2013-7
What lessons can we learn from this?
This paper explains some of the ways to discern between legitimate charges and unreasonable charges on attorney invoices and how to reduce inflated legal bills.