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To some this may be obvious. To others, there's a belief that challenging your attorney will get you no where.

My parents are in a strange situation. They picked the wrong attorney. It has already cost them the lawsuit they were defending against, and now the attorney is sort of kicking them while they are down by padding the bill.

To be fair, I searched and only could find topics on challenging medical overbilling. So, here are some keywords to make this post easier to find in the future: Attorney, Lawyer, overbill, overbilling, dispute. If someone knows of a thread already addressing this, please post a link.

With all the recommendations here in FW Finance to get an attorney to protect yourself, there aren't any threads helping people protect themself from the attorney they hired, especially if they chose poorly.

I'm having trouble convincing my parents to dispute the bill. With exception of one line item, all their evidence is their word/log against the attorney's. The exception is a key one that I think has the potential to make their case. The attorney billed for a court date for which there was none and the case file at the court house reflects that there was no activity in court.

The first concern they came back at me with is that once they send a written dispute, the lawyer will then try to bill them for the time reading it and the time responding to it. I could not find a sufficient reference via the internet that indicates whether or not such an activity is billable. If anyone has insight into this, I would greatly appreciate a pointer in the right direction. Right now, my parents are a little gunshy at even contacting this lawyer and I can't blame them right now.

=======================
edit:
My apologies for including background information as it has distracted from the focus of this thread. I have no intentions of pursuing why the lawsuit ended the way it did. For all I know, the result may have been the best course of action for them. I'll never know. I was just conveying the motivation of why they were hesitant to contact the lawyer to dispute the padded bill.

I wanted to focus on the simpler aspect of

1. Steps to take to prevent overbilling.

2. Steps to take to dispute a padded bill.

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I've also heard talk about getting/serving a signed release for a lawyer to prevent future charges on a closed case.

Is t... (more)

gatzdon (May. 20, 2007 @ 6:47p) |

I suppose you could send the lawyer a letter that reads something like this:

Dear Lawyer,

I am writing you concerning (cas... (more)

hoffjm00 (May. 20, 2007 @ 8:53p) |

and receive another bill for $225 for the call??

gatzdon (May. 22, 2007 @ 5:52p) |

Best I've gotten so far out of this thread involves protecting oneself in the future.

1. Request regular/frequent billing (weekly?, monthly?) (Is it possible that the act of doing this will reduce the chances of a padded bill as it proactively indicates the one is paying attention?)

2. Dispute inaccuracies as quickly as possible. (keeping the time between the date for a billed item and the filing of the dispute increases the chance of successfully disputing a discrepancy in which there is no hard objective evidence??).

3. Get a written contract/agreement up front with the paid retainer that spells out the hourly rate, and the billing practices (e.g. all times rounded up to the nearest 0.1 hour)



As for after recieving a padded bill.

1. Send a written dispute that focuses on and itemizes the discrepancies and include an expected timeframe for the response. (Search FW Finance for entire threads dedicated to well written disputes).

2. If no response is received, resend dispute and also follow the State's Bar Association process for filing a complaint. State Bar Association may have a process for Fee Dispute Resolution.

3. Time spent for reviewing/explaining/justifying a bill is not billable. (but be cautious to not file frivolous or vague disputes???).
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As a lawyer, myself, I am of two minds on this subject. It is not uncommon for litigation clients who have agreed to pay hourly to judge the quality and extent of the services rendered based upon the results of the case. When the results are negative, it is certainly possible that the outcome is the result of poor lawyering. However, it is not always true that good lawyering produces positive results. While I definitely believe that attorneys and clients should be circumspect in preparing and reviewing billings, a client should be careful not to allow a bad result to necessarily color his/her review of the billed items (e.g. if a reasonable amount of time was spent preparing for a particular hearing that the attorney did attend and actually seemed prepared, a client should not dispute this time simply because the result of the hearing did not go the client's way).

That said, it is unfortunately not uncommon for attorneys to pad billings in areas where little explanation or justification is reported on the bill. For example, time spent on phone calls or reviewing correspondence. Most attorney billing systems use increments of tenths of an hour; some use quarter-hours. If an attorney bills you .1 hour (or worse yet, .25 hour) to call opposing counsel and leave a voicemail and uses less than 6 minutes (or 15 minutes), you have in effect paid for more time than the attorney used (note that I did not say "overbilled" since the terms of the attorney-client agreement may very well spell this out).

I think the long and short of this is to take a reasonable, objective view of the bill, setting aside emotion about the result of the case, and do not be afraid to ask for clarification or detail on any item(s) that seem to be cumulative or without clear justification. Do also check the fee agreement with the attorney to make sure that the bill complies with the terms agreed upon with respect to billing increments, expenses (some agreements say that the client has to approve certain expenses or expenses exceeding a certain threshold). I think most reasonable attorneys would be willing to adjust a bill downwards a certain amount to give a client the benefit of the doubt on items that, cumulatively, may have resulted in less time than billed. This is especially true if it means the attorney gets paid instead of having to fight over the bill.

I don't believe that the outcome is the sole basis for my parent's belief that they were overbilled, but it did leave a sour taste in their mouth. I don't understand why, but the attorney let them sign a settlement where they put their house up as collateral. This stikes me as odd as my parents have a recent bankruptcy, live in Florida, have no tangible assets, and are essentially judgement proof. I don't pretend to understand whether or not there were additional circumstances that would justify my parents risking thier home to achieve a prompt settlement. They said that according to their lawyer, they were in the right, but could not afford the long, drawn out court battle that it would take to prevail. As we all know, relatives don't always give the full story when they are embarassed to admit they screwed up.

My mom kept a journal and one of the things that she documented was the time and duration of all contact with their lawyer. He billed no less than 90 minutes for any given phone call, yet all calls she has documented were no more than 25 minutes.

The one that stuck out to my mom and made her aware of the bill padding was " Nov. 16/2005 1.5 hrs x225.00, Initial conference with client: review complaint and client documents, Fees 337.50", yet the initial consultion was done via telephone lasting about 25 minutes (per phone records) and there were no documents to review yet.

I understand that my parents will not win a long drawn out dispute with the attorney (as that's his job), but since the attorney is only asking for another $1k above and beyond the initial retainer paid, I'm trying to convince them to at least respond with what they have and ask that in light of the obvious bill padding that he just accept the already paid retainer as payment in full. They are afraid that if they respond with a dispute, the lawyer will just turn around and bill them for reading/responding to the dispute.

As this lawyer is already aware of, their settlement payments will take higher priority as that is secured by their house.

gatzdon said: My parents are in a strange situation. They picked the wrong attorney. It has already cost them the lawsuit they were defending against, and now the attorney is sort of kicking them while they are down by padding the bill.

If you think legal malpractice was committed have your parents file a claim against his leg mal insurance policy.

If this is only a billing dispute and not related to legal mal, try and resolve the issue with the attorney himself. If your parents are not satisfied, file a complaint w/ the state bar assoc.</blockquote></blockquote>

I was hoping to use this thread and it's quick summary to compile advice for others on what actions they could take up front to protect themselves from padding the bill in addition to how to dispute a padded bill. (rather than just be selfish and focus on my problem)

As time goes on and if good advice shows up here. I summarize the good points into two categories 1. What to do up front!, and 2. What to do after the fact!

About the only thing I have found on the internet so far, is to request frequent itemized statements of charges as this prevents the lawyer from going back as far as he needs to in order to spread out billable time to get his billed hours up.

I've also found advice about getting a written contract with the retainer, but much of it has been generic as to the content rather than spell out specific items like minimum time charge and incremental time charge beyond the minimum.

ClaimsGuy said: If you think legal malpractice was committed have your parents file a claim against his leg mal insurance policy.

If this is only a billing dispute and not related to legal mal, try and resolve the issue with the attorney himself. If your parents are not satisfied, file a complaint w/ the state bar assoc....


I'm trying to convince them to contact the attorney first, but I can't convince them they won't be charged for doing so.

Is there anything I can send them or point them to that indicates they cannot be charged for disputing an attorney's bill.

Thank you for rasing this topic. I am exactly in same situation right now. Most of the hours are for coversations with opposing counsil - which never took place. I have to go to some arbitration based on my contract. I am trying to find out how to do that.

I've never been a fan of lawyers. You need to assume the are money grubbing, fee padding leeches until they prove otherwise.

Suggesting a settlement agreement where they put their HOUSE up for collateral is just stupid. That guy needs a bar complaint and a claim against him for malpractice.

"Oh, you can't afford me, here's a settlement adverse to your interests."

As far as being charged for disputing the bill, that seems a bit silly to me. His billing is related to the case, which is apparently settled, so he can't bill them for a settled case.

Lawyers suck. Sue pro-se

I am a Florida attorney, so I may know a little something about this. Your parents have every right to dispute the bill. They hired him to provide a service at an hourly rate regardless of the outcome. If you parents can substantiate a claim for overbilling in anyway, they have every right to contact the attorney and dispute whatever charges they wish.

For example, if an attorney bills .4 for a 1 page letter, that may be a little high. Odds are it took .2 or .3 to draft and review the letter. If your parents have phone records of time spent talking to him and he bills for more than the phone records show, you have a legit dispute. If he billed for reviewing records he did not yet have, you have a legit dispute.

Your parents should schedule an appointment to go to his office and discuss his bill. If he refuses to do so, they can file a complaint with the Florida Bar. The Florida Bar tends to be very strict with attorneys.

Overbilling is not really legal malpractice, rather, it is fraud. If the bills were mailed, its mail fraud. Its pretty rare that an overbilling issue gets that far, but it is possible.

Feel free to send me a PM. I will be happy to help out.

Some FlaBar links:

http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/TFBConsum.nsf/48e76203493b82ad852567090070c9b9/c0bd2f20e7efae2685256b2f006c616d?OpenDocument

http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/TFBConsum.nsf/840090c16eedaf0085256b61000928dc/9d74f159c0f68a7d85256b2f006c6803?OpenDocument#Money%2FBilling

RonK said: [good perspective/advice]

I agree with RonK. Add that most bar associations have a fee arbitration service that might be able to help.

gatzdon said: I was hoping to use this thread and it's quick summary to compile advice for others on what actions they could take up front to protect themselves from padding the bill in addition to how to dispute a padded bill. (rather than just be selfish and focus on my problem)Just like with any other service provider out there, the most important thing that you can do to ensure that you won't have sticker shock later is to clearly articulate and set out your expectations up front. If the project for which the lawyer is being hired has a clearly defined scope, ask for a fee estimate and make sure that you understand the assumptions that are used to arrive at the estimate.

If you, as a client, do not clearly define the scope of representation and then stay on top of the bills, you may very well by shocked by the final bill. Further, if you make statements such as "do whatever it takes" or "win at any cost," don't be surprised if the attorney spends extra time working on your matter. Also make sure that you do whatever it takes to create efficiencies for the attorney: if you send him/her a stack of papers, make sure that they are clearly labelled and the important sections are highlighted/pointed out to him/her; don't contact your lawyer 20 times a day with small questions (it's much more efficient to schedule one phone call to go over everything); don't create false emergencies -- there is almost never an efficient way to deal with an emergency.

I am not a lawyer nor do I play on on tv. So take the following with a generous dose of salt.

Good point about the result likely tainting the view on the billiing. Another point is that maybe the lawyer is less than stellar at explaining the bills. For example maybe some of the time went into preparing for a phone call/doing followup work not just being on the phone. Same for time billed for a non-existent court meeting, it is possible the lawyer prepared for a cancelled meeting.

Still though it sounds like your parents kept good records and could document any true false billing.

At this point you could go the polite route and ask the lawyer to please check the bills. I don't see how him checking for/correcting any mistakes should be on your parents' dime. Alternatively, you could contact the State Bar. Supposedly some states take such billing overages very seriously. While your parents' notes are not indisputable proof, neither are the lawyer's time figures. If the lawyer is overbilling your parents he was likely overbilling other clients. Seemingly a thorough State Bar investigation could easily uncover a bad lawyer billing more than the number of available work hours per week.

To clarify some of Codename's statements:

Most attorneys are honest people. You just never hear about honest attorney's, only the bad ones.

The settlement agreement may have been stupid, but that would depend on the facts of the case. One thing to consider is Fl's homestead act that protects your homestead from pretty much everyone but home lenders and those that have made improvements to the home. If the person they owed money had some lien on the home, putting the home up as collateral may have been the only option. Again, I am just guessing and its difficult to say if he committed any malpractice without seeing the whole file.

He cannot charge for disputing the bill. He can only charge for services provided. Services can and do need to be provided after settlements are complete (typically paperwork and other mundane details) so billing after the settlement is done is not too far fetched. But, charging for disputing a bill is not proper as he is merely defending the value of his services, not providing any additional services.

stallion1031 said: I am a Florida attorney, so I may know a little something about this. Your parents have every right to dispute the bill. They hired him to provide a service at an hourly rate regardless of the outcome. If you parents can substantiate a claim for overbilling in anyway, they have every right to contact the attorney and dispute whatever charges they wish.Absolutely correct.

For example, if an attorney bills .4 for a 1 page letter, that may be a little high. Odds are it took .2 or .3 to draft and review the letter.Depends on the letter and the circumstances. If I can have my secretary draft a short transmittal/cover letter and all I have to do is sign it, I don't bill for it. If it's a complex letter explaining difficult concepts, it is not unusual for me to spend a couple of hours drafting it.

In the end, clients have to pick their battles: arguing that an attorney overbilled them .1 hour for drafting a letter will only irritate the attorney and may cause him/her to be less receptive to their more serious billing concerns. Billing disputes with attorneys are not that different from other types of billing disputes: if you are reasonable in your demands and your expectations and you can substantiate the request, then you have a very good chance of getting your request accommodated.

gatzdon said: ..... They picked the wrong attorney. It has already cost them the lawsuit they were defending against.......

so I guess you have concluded they would have won the lawsuit with a different attorney --- ------- and it is the attorney that caused them to pay the other party?

geo123 said: stallion1031 said: I am a Florida attorney, so I may know a little something about this. Your parents have every right to dispute the bill. They hired him to provide a service at an hourly rate regardless of the outcome. If you parents can substantiate a claim for overbilling in anyway, they have every right to contact the attorney and dispute whatever charges they wish.Absolutely correct.

For example, if an attorney bills .4 for a 1 page letter, that may be a little high. Odds are it took .2 or .3 to draft and review the letter.Depends on the letter and the circumstances. If I can have my secretary draft a short transmittal/cover letter and all I have to do is sign it, I don't bill for it. If it's a complex letter explaining difficult concepts, it is not unusual for me to spend a couple of hours drafting it.

In the end, clients have to pick their battles: arguing that an attorney overbilled them .1 hour for drafting a letter will only irritate the attorney and may cause him/her to be less receptive to their more serious billing concerns. Billing disputes with attorneys are not that different from other types of billing disputes: if you are reasonable in your demands and your expectations and you can substantiate the request, then you have a very good chance of getting your request accommodated.


- Thats true, thats why I said "may," but in retrospect, I didn't make that very clear. Thank you for clarifying that. Also, I guess we may just bill a little different. I will bill seperately for research, review of the file, and for drafting the letter. So my research may be a few hours, my file review a few hours, but the actual letter draft would likely be a rather low amount of time like .2 or 3 for a short 1 page letter.

Its important to note that hours of work may go into the prep for a 1 page letter. Alternatively, if your attorney billed you .4 to draft a letter merely notifying you of an upcoming court date, thats prob too high.

In my area of the law, my clients are sometimes liable for opposing counsel's attorney's fees. We will routinely review OC's letters sent to us to see, for example, how much he billed for a short letter asking that we submit a settlement offer. We will then argue that certain time should be cut down as it did not really take him as long to do what he said he did.

stallion1031 said: I will bill seperately for research, review of the file, and for drafting the letter. So my research may be a few hours, my file review a few hours, but the actual letter draft would likely be a rather low amount of time like .2 or 3 for a short 1 page letter.Your firm makes you bill separately for each of the tasks? Is that because your clients require the firm to use task codes? Do you tend to do insurance defense work (insurance companies are notoriously fascinated by task codes)? I have never heard of any firm voluntarily agreeing to task code billing since it tends to create administrative nightmares for the billing attorney. Not only is creating a billing record for each task a tremendous hassle but there is also often no way to cleanly separate out certain tasks, since some tasks enable you to complete other tasks, so the order of the tasks can be more important than the amount of time you spent on each one. By the way, because of the complexities associated with task code billing, it tends to subject the billing firm to additional liability and is, therefore, typically frowned upon by the general counsel's offices (yes, large firm lawyers have our own in-house lawyers that represent us) and the malpractice insurers.

In my area of the law, my clients are sometimes liable for opposing counsel's attorney's fees. We will routinely review OC's letters sent to us to see, for example, how much he billed for a short letter asking that we submit a settlement offer. We will then argue that certain time should be cut down as it did not really take him as long to do what he said he did.I am assuming that these "short letter fee disputes" are made in connection with other, more substantial overbilling arguments. Otherwise, I just can't imagine that it is cost effective for your clients to pay their attorneys to argue these "short letter fee disputes" on their behalf.

Let me make this clear - if this attorney charges your parents for the time spent in researching and responding to a valid billing dispute inquiry (and it's an attorneys affirmative duty to review bills for accuracy and respond promptly to billing inquiries), please report this individual to the FLA bar immediately. That would be some of the most dishonest practices that I've ever heard of.

Remember, a lawyer has the burden of proving that his billings are accurate, not your parents. A professional but stern letter outlining discrepancies and giving a time certain for a response is step #1. If no response, step #2 is to resend the letter giving a time certain to respond or you will inquire the FLA bar. If no response, FOLLOW THROUGH and attach both letters to bar.

geo123 said: stallion1031 said: I will bill seperately for research, review of the file, and for drafting the letter. So my research may be a few hours, my file review a few hours, but the actual letter draft would likely be a rather low amount of time like .2 or 3 for a short 1 page letter.Your firm makes you bill separately for each of the tasks? Is that because your clients require the firm to use task codes? Do you tend to do insurance defense work (insurance companies are notoriously fascinated by task codes)? I have never heard of any firm voluntarily agreeing to task code billing since it tends to create administrative nightmares for the billing attorney. Not only is creating a billing record for each task a tremendous hassle but there is also often no way to cleanly separate out certain tasks, since some tasks enable you to complete other tasks, so the order of the tasks can be more important than the amount of time you spent on each one. By the way, because of the complexities associated with task code billing, it tends to subject the billing firm to additional liability and is, therefore, typically frowned upon by the general counsel's offices (yes, large firm lawyers have our own in-house lawyers that represent us) and the malpractice insurers.
_________________________

Yep, workers' compensation defense. They love their codes. In fact, different insurers want different codes. With a file review and research project, as much of it is done at the same time, I just split the total time in half, and bill half to research, half to file review. Then I draft the letter. Seems to make them happy. They only get upset when we don't use the right codes. Everything is billed at the same rate, so as long as I am billing the proper client for the actual work I am doing, everythings ok.

In my area of the law, my clients are sometimes liable for opposing counsel's attorney's fees. We will routinely review OC's letters sent to us to see, for example, how much he billed for a short letter asking that we submit a settlement offer. We will then argue that certain time should be cut down as it did not really take him as long to do what he said he did.I am assuming that these "short letter fee disputes" are made in connection with other, more substantial overbilling arguments. Otherwise, I just can't imagine that it is cost effective for your clients to pay their attorneys to argue these "short letter fee disputes" on their behalf.

___________

Yes they are. Typically we will chop 10-20% off the requested total hours by hitting lots of these short letters. Hey, my clients have me do lots of things that are not cost effective. We tell clients, "It may not be worth the time," but some adjusters just get this little devil on their shoulders and want to win at all costs. Stubborn clients are always the most profitable. Sometimes clients don't listen when you tell them that they should settle.

A great example: last year we recommended we settle a file for 38K. OC asked for 37.5K. Our client only wanted to spend 20K. One year later the value of the claim (if they win) is up to $400K - $500K + medical expenses for the rest of this guys life (prob in the range of $200K). Granted, we have what we believe to be a winning case (this guy has a problem telling the truth), but we have 3 attorneys spending A LOT of time in prep for a document heavy trial.

Oh, and our rate is lower than the rate OC is requesting. Its the nature of comp defense. Comp defense is billed at a low rate but has lots of billable hours available.

codename47 said: I've never been a fan of lawyers. You need to assume the are money grubbing, fee padding leeches until they prove otherwise.

...

Lawyers suck. Sue pro-se


I think over-generalizing about lawyers is not particularly fair, or helpful to this thread.

thejuice said: codename47 said: I've never been a fan of lawyers. You need to assume the are money grubbing, fee padding leeches until they prove otherwise.

...

Lawyers suck. Sue pro-se


I think over-generalizing about lawyers is not particularly fair, or helpful to this thread.

You must be new here .

Judge" the individual, rather than the profession. Commendable, IMO. "

stallion1031 said: I am a Florida attorney, so I may know a little something about this. ... Feel free to send me a PM. I will be happy to help out.

</blockquote>

I know bad-mouthing lawyers here is looked down upon by the Fatwallet Finance intelegensi. But that's OK. I've had contact with more lawyers than I care to remember recently (a few of you here following my kinship fiasco thread may understand) and my experience has led to the unavoidable conclusion that while there are some honest lawyers, I firmly believe they are in the minority. And competent, honest lawyers are even scarcer.

I realize this is a terrible blanket accusation...yes, it certainly is. However, if necessary I could easily document through painful personal experience glaring examples of attorney ineptitude, malfeasance, stupidity, and just plain unmitigated greed.

This thread could turn out to be very useful. I've yet to come across any good, detailed, useful how-to books or website information concerning unfair legal bills. Other than the basics, of course. Here's hoping this thread will be a good first step.

cga said: I know bad-mouthing lawyers here is looked down upon by the Fatwallet Finance intelegensi. But that's OK. I've had contact with more lawyers than I care to remember recently (a few of you here following my kinship fiasco thread may understand) and my experience has led to the unavoidable conclusion that while there are some honest lawyers, I firmly believe they are in the minority. And competent, honest lawyers are even scarcer.

I realize this is a terrible blanket accusation...yes, it certainly is. However, if necessary I could easily document through painful personal experience glaring examples of attorney ineptitude, malfeasance, stupidity, and just plain unmitigated greed.

This thread could turn out to be very useful. I've yet to come across any good, detailed, useful how-to books or website information concerning unfair legal bills. Other than the basics, of course. Here's hoping this thread will be a good first step.


It's terrible that you had a bad experience, but generally speaking, people's bad impression of attorneys is the same as a dentist. It's a painful experience and you usually walk away with less than you had coming in.

People aren't used to paying for a person's time in small increments. You need your brakes fixed, you take it to a guy who charges you for the parts and the labor. But with an attorney, there are several small and big line items that leave you wondering why you are nickel and dimmed. It may seem silly why you can't call your lawyer without being charged for it, but if your lawyer spends two hours a day on the phone with clients, that's two hours he isn't billing for something else. You pay for the privilege of the lawyer's time. That's that he's selling.

I've worked for big and small firms, and I can tell you that every lawyer I know takes a client's concerns about billing seriously. Most will be willing to write down a bill if it cannot be resolved. But a person should not expect carte blanche with an attorney's time.

They definitely should write a letter to the attorney with the specific billing disputes they have, and the facts to back up their claims. A general "you overbilled me" letter will probably not have much weight. If, however, they present in a reasonable fashion errors on his bill, then there is a good chance the lawyer will try and resolve the problem.

In addition, in some states (I know Florida has this) the state bar association has a fee dispute resolution department just for this sort of thing (since it is not a malpractice issue, it is a fee dispute). I would first do the letter - and if there is no response to it, then request that the attorney submit to the fee dispute resolution (I think it has to be voluntary). If they are polite and detailed with their complaint, it is likely that the attorney will be agreeable to this process, as it will likely fully resolve the matter.

If the attorney bills for reviewing their letter about the bill (he really shouldn't), then that is something that can be brought up if it goes into a fee resolution process. If they are just angry and ranting at him in the letter, then it will likely be dismissed. Best to support their letter with as much documentation as possible (they'll need the documentation anyway if they have to pursue it further). Also, look at the retainer agreement, their may be language in their about how disputes are handled.

The best way to prevent stuff like this in the future is to get bills on a regular basis, and review them for inconsistencies, and deal with them at the time. To get a bill and not object to it within a certain time frame (usually spelled out in the retainer agreement), might indicate that they agreed to the bill. It's a lot less credible to complain about paying a bill for services that were done months and months ago, that you received bills on, but said nothing about 'til way later.

As to why your parents agreed to what they did - it's hard to second guess without knowing all the facts. If they suspect malpractice, they can always consult with another lawyer and see what that lawyer says. Just because some people here think it's stupid for them to have signed it, the fact is, they did, and if it was from bad lawyering, then that needs to be dealt with - but that is a separate issue from the fee claim.

I apologize for the extraneous background information as it has distracted from the focus of this thread. I have no intentions of pursuing why the lawsuit ended the way it did. For all I know, the result may have been the best course of action for them. I'll never know. I was just conveying the motivation of why they were hesitant to contact the lawyer to dispute the padded bill.

To be honest, I'm quite impressed that there really hasn't been any lawyer jokes yet, although there are a few posts devoted to knocking or defending lawyers in general. Regardless of the personal character and morals of any given lawyer out there, many of the visitors on this site require the services of an attorney.

My only real experience with an attorney was for real estate transactions and in those cases, I heavily researched the value of the person I hired and their services were provided for a flat fee (which I only covered up to the closing or until it was determined that a lawsuit was needed, but either way I knew up front the limitations of what the flat fee got me).

I updated the quick summary with information that I've gleamed from this thread and from the internet so far. Everyone is free to edit it for accuracy and readability.

What this thread really needs is serious advice on how to prevent the overbilling.

For example, I'm guessing that by requesting frequent itemized billings up front would have the effect of conveying that one is paying attention and therefore is not a good target for padding the bill, thus reducing the likelyhood of it to happen.

It would also be nice to get some pointers as to what kind of journal to keep and what details/documents to attach to it.

duplicate post....

did anyone tell him to get a lawyer yet?

Attorneys understand that many clients are very sensitive to costs. To prevent a situation like this in the future, I would sit down with the attorney up front and make sure you are comfortable with the relationship. Explain your concerns about costs to the attorney and ask for a cost estimate. While an estimate may not always be feasible, you can certainly ask the attorney to give you a call when the bill has reached $X. At that point, you can reevaluate. A good attorney should have no problem doing any of this and should be able to clearly explain the work and potential costs involved.

Attorneys deal with questions and complaints about bills all the time. Call the attorney and express your concerns. Go through the bill line-by-line if necessary--good attorneys should be able to explain the time and costs reflected on the bill and reduce the bill if appropriate. As explained previously, there will never (at least, should never) be a charge to the client for this discussion.

EDIT:

P.S. It's been my experience that attorneys will generally be agreeable to reducing the bill if you approach the subject with courtesy and emotional intelligence. Be firm and exhaustive in your questioning, but do not become accusatory or upset. Most of the time a win-win result can be achieved. If you start hurling accusations of bill-padding and greediness then the attorney will care less about maintaining a long-term relationship and referral source and will have less incentive to reduce the bill.

Attorneys realizing clients are senstive to costs? Whatever dude. I have a huge wheel in my office a la the Price is Right with all my clients on it. I just spin the wheel and randomly bill a client. Its great. Now all I need our some beauties....

But seriously, most attorneys are knowledgable that clients are sensitive to costs. It is not uncommon to ask an attorney to notify you when fees reach a certain sum. We handle some adoption cases and will typically require a $1,500 non refundable pre-paid fee (of course its refundable if we don't do anything or do very little and commit malpractice). After that $1,500 is exhausted we request the client deposit additional funds of X amount based on what we think will be billed in the near future from which we will deduct our bills. We then refund whatever is left over. It means we never have to go after a client for not paying. It also means that we have to do some additional book-keeping, but no big deal. Doing bills this way means the clients always know what they have spent on attorney's fees. Granted, we handle only a few adoptions a month, so its easy to do with only a fwe clients.

There is no tried and true way to prevent overbilling. You just need to find an honest attorney that you like and respect. My personal rules for hiring an attorney are simple. 1) Do I like the person? 2) Would I want to have a beer with this person? 3) Are they knowledgable about the legal issue? 4) Are they respected in their field and in the community? 5) Do they have any bar complaints against them? 6) Would I be worried if I sat down at trial and saw this person representing my opponent? 7) Do I trust this person?

I learned a huge lesson when I traveled with two partners to a client meeting. The client is a fairly large company based in the southeast US. When the partners went in the building they were greeted with hugs, not handshakes. The clients genuinely liked and respected these two partners. Tack on that the partners are AV rated and you have a fairly marketable little firm.

You can never overpay for an attorney's services.

With that said, you should talk to the attorney about the bill. You might be surprised to find out that they are willing to negotiate, assuming you provide a good reason for why you feel the bill is too high.

gatzdon said:

My mom kept a journal and one of the things that she documented was the time and duration of all contact with their lawyer. He billed no less than 90 minutes for any given phone call, yet all calls she has documented were no more than 25 minutes.

The one that stuck out to my mom and made her aware of the bill padding was " Nov. 16/2005 1.5 hrs x225.00, Initial conference with client: review complaint and client documents, Fees 337.50", yet the initial consultion was done via telephone lasting about 25 minutes (per phone records) and there were no documents to review yet.



He's cooked.

Get phone records from the phone company. They will show the exact times that were spent on the phone. The attorney will try to make the case that he needed time to record the phone comversations, etc., but he will get seriously reviewed at the very least. I suggest getting a copy of the phone records and the attorney billing fabrications, and sending him a letter asking him to review them with you, making it very clear that this will be done on his dime and it will not be billable. Once you start flashing your fangs and showing that you've got him nailed, he'll be more than willing to reduce his fees.

hoffjm00:

>>>
It's terrible that you had a bad experience, but generally speaking, people's bad impression of attorneys is the same as a dentist. It's a painful experience and you usually walk away with less than you had coming in.
>>>

I wish it were just one bad experience upon which I'm basing my impressions. But it's been many more than that. Like most reasonable people I don't mind paying for services rendered. It's being poorly represented and gouged that I find objectionable. This kind of treatment has become so prevalent that it is now considered normal. I'm not one to believe in stereotypes or go along with the crowd, but for heaven's sake, the legal racket has become almost as painful as the cost of private health insurance.

Having said all that, I'm fairly confident that all the attorneys contributing to this thread are among the minority of lawyers: honest and competent.

StevenColorado said:
He's cooked.

Get phone records from the phone company. They will show the exact times that were spent on the phone. The attorney will try to make the case that he needed time to record the phone comversations, etc., but he will get seriously reviewed at the very least. I suggest getting a copy of the phone records and the attorney billing fabrications, and sending him a letter asking him to review them with you, making it very clear that this will be done on his dime and it will not be billable. Once you start flashing your fangs and showing that you've got him nailed, he'll be more than willing to reduce his fees.



If the attorney mailed the bill through the USPS, he's guilty of MAIL FRAUD, too!

ifyouhavetoask said:
If the attorney mailed the bill through the USPS, he's guilty of MAIL FRAUD, too!


Maybe OP should buy or rent the movie version of "The Firm".

taxmantoo said: ifyouhavetoask said:
If the attorney mailed the bill through the USPS, he's guilty of MAIL FRAUD, too!


Maybe OP should buy or rent the movie version of "The Firm".


I'm glad to see my sarcasm wasn't missed.

well, technically, it could really be mail fraud. If the attorney knew what he was doing was false or fraudulent and he mailed it, it may have all the necessary elements. Heck, the NCAA got a lot of its current power off of an old mail fraud case.

Generally speaking, unless the suspected mailing involves numerous victims and mucho dollars, you can expect the postal inspectors to do nothing, just like the FTC. Mail fraud is not privately actionable, and fedgov has more important things to worry about than a single attorney bill.

Skipping 11 Messages...
hoffjm00 said: ....If my understanding as to the status of this case is incorrect, please call me immediately to discuss why I am in error....

and receive another bill for $225 for the call??



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