Recently I had a doctor come to me for help sorting out a large legal bill he had incurred with a BIG law firm. He had a Medicare billing problem and had gotten into some trouble with the feds. Although he incurred several hundred thousand in legal fees from this BIG law firm, the firm did little to resolve his Medicare billing problems. So the cardiologist went to an attorney at a small firm who was able to quickly and satisfactorily the Medicare billing issues. The total bill from the new attorney at the small firm was less than $10,000.
The problems I found with the legal bills from the large firm filled a 12 page opinion letter. But beyond the individual billing issues, it was pretty clear to me in reviewing the BIG firm’s bills that the client had got caught up in what I call the “protocol of a BIG law firm.” It never fails, but whenever I do a legal bill audit of a BIG law firm’s legal bills, I always find the same things. What I find is that each BIG firm tends to approach any legal matter the same way which is to overstaff, overwork, overbill and overlook any real opportunities to quickly and efficiently resolve a matter for a client. Continue reading
In my last post, I posed the question does “deception in legal billing invariably lead to deception in other areas?”
The answer to that question may be “yes” according to Prof. Lisa Lehman. In her law review article, Lying to Clients, 138 U. Pa. L. Rev. 659, she writes how easy it can be for one deception to lead to others. If an attorney “accepts the use of small deceptions in one setting, it becomes easier to use deception to solve problems in other settings. . . . Deception allows greater control of the use of time, and sometimes major savings in time.”
Even more troubling from a client trust standpoint is commentator Alan Altman’s view that if an attorney “becomes even slightly comfortable with charging the client for superfluous time, a question is begged: why strain in the service of the client . . . when inefficiency has its own rewards?” To Bill or not to Bill? Lawyers Who Wear Wrist Watches Almost Always Do, Although Ethical Lawyers Actually Think About It First, 11 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 203 at p. 211.
Under this view, there is no incentive for an attorney to really strain to try to get hold of an opposing counsel to press settlement negotiations to end the case and curtail further work on the case. After all, inefficiency has its own rewards. Continue reading