Red Flags in Legal Bills: Incremental Billing Issues

[Note: This is the second in a series of posts on “red flags in legal bills.”  The posts are taken from my article “Red Flags in Legal Bills: What Warning Signals are Attorneys Sending?”]

My last post was on billing large blocks of time for long work days.  Now we go the other way and look at billing in very small increments of time. While the problems (i.e., costs) that can arise when billing for long work days can be easily understood, the problems associated with billing in small increments of time are more subtle and their impact on legal costs less understood and appreciated.

To begin with, most company litigation or billing guidelines require attorneys to bill in minimum increments of 0.1 hour.   These guidelines also allow attorneys to “round up” any task of over 3 minutes to 0.1 hour and that any task billed in excess of 0.1 (or 6 minutes) should be rounded up or down to the nearest higher or lower increment.  These requirements mirror an attorney’s ethical duty.  See ABA Formal Op. 93-379 (1993)(“A lawyer may not bill for more time than she actually spends on the matter, except to the extent that she rounds up to minimum time periods.”).

While it is certainly permissible to bill in 0.1 hour increments, seeing a lot of charges at 0.1 hour in a legal bill – especially on the same day – should raise a red flag.   Here’s why. Continue reading