Reviewing “Below the Line” For Costs & Expenses

“[I]n the absence of an agreement to the contrary, it is impermissible for a lawyer to create an additional source of profit for the law firm beyond that which is contained in the provision of professional services themselves. The lawyer’s stock in trade is the sale of legal services, not photocopy paper, tuna fish sandwiches, computer time or messenger services.”*

If you did a Google search (and I did), you would find that no one has ever written on the subject of reviewing legal bills for costs and expenses.  “Below the line costs” are those costs and expenses typically included at the bottom of legal bills or below the line summarizing the time billed for performing legal tasks.

So, for no other reason than that it has never been done before, I thought it about time that someone did write about what I call reviewing “below the line” costs. Continue reading

Does Your Attorney Exercise “Billing Judgment?”

Why A Simple Review of a Bill Before It Goes Out Is Not Only A Fundamental Ethical & Legal Duty, It Is Also Good Business Sense 

It seems so simple.  All an attorney has to do before a legal bill goes out is to review it for accuracy and make any necessary changes.  In fact, the ABA Task Force on Lawyer Business Ethics in its Lawyer’s Responsibility in Preparation of Invoices very succinctly tells attorneys that “The lawyer responsible for billing should review each invoice to ensure, prior to sending an invoice to a client, that the invoice is reviewed for accuracy.”

The ABA Task Force simple admonition actually mirrors a Supreme Court mandate that all attorneys must exercise “billing judgment” in both the preparation and review of those invoices before they are sent out.  See  Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 436 (1983) (holding that at all times attorneys should exercise “billing judgment”).  This is why when reviewing fee petitions, courts will invariably look to see if they can tell if the attorney has exercised billing judgment.  See, e.g., Hayes v. Astrue, 2010 WL 5479611 (N.D. Tex. 2010)(court found attorney lacked “billing judgment” in not reducing excessive hours and hours spent on clerical tasks). Continue reading