One of the more confusing questions that junior lawyers (and many senior lawyers for that matter) deal with is the issue of what they can and cannot bill for on a legal invoice.
While a junior attorney is probably not creating the bill himself or herself, that attorney is inputting the time entries that will eventually show up on the bill. Oftentimes, senior attorneys do not give clear guidelines on what tasks can and cannot be billed, either out of a mistaken belief that this is common sense, a desire to not have associates err on the side of under-billing, or a confusion over the proper approach themselves.
But when a client sees one suspect time entry on an invoice containing 99 otherwise appropriate entries, the whole bill might be unnecessarily called into question, causing delay and underpayment.
10 Common Tasks Clients Will Dispute
Ultimately, what tasks your firm’s client should pay for (and not pay for) on a bill should be determined by the agreement your firm reached with the client as well as any applicable state bar guidelines, but here are some common tasks clients might dispute on a bill:
- Assigning tasks to other attorneys and staff
- Filing documents related to the matter
- Training of attorneys or staff on technical platforms
- Administrative tasks related to sending and receiving correspondence
- Simple data input/entry
- Formatting/scanning of documents
- Continuing education, seminars, and review of journals
- Research of basic law expected to be known by attorneys in a given field
- Non-approved travel time
- Preparing and reviewing client bills/invoices
Again, what the client will pay for is will ultimately going to be determined based on the agreement and relationship with that client (and applicable laws and bar guidelines), but, when in doubt, best to get clarity from a managing attorney and/or straight from the client beforehand to reduce wasted time and unnecessary tension.
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