Lawyers in Different Practice Areas Must Follow Same Rules When Billing for Fees & Costs

In addition to reviewing legal bills in insurance defense cases, I also review bills in other legal areas involving commercial law, trust and estate law, family law, bankruptcy law, and criminal defense law. In fact, I have reviewed legal bills in one of the largest bankruptcy cases to go before the U.S. Supreme Court and I am currently reviewing legal bills in a high profile white collar criminal case.

When asked to review legal bills in a non-insurance defense matter, I am invariably asked what standards will I apply in reviewing the legal bills.  And I invariably reply, I use the same standards that I apply when reviewing legal bills in insurance defense cases.

Although different standards of law may apply in different practice areas, there are some uniform standards that apply in all legal practice areas. And one uniform standard is that the same ethical rules pertaining to billing for fees and costs apply equally in all types of practice areas.  That is to say that there is not one set of standards for reviewing legal bills that apply only to criminal defense lawyers or  only to bankruptcy lawyers or family law lawyers and one set of standards that apply only to insurance defense lawyers. Continue reading

Making a Client Pay for Attorney Civility

I attended a CLE seminar on “Civility in Practice” at my state bar’s annual meeting. One issue that the panel of judges and attorneys discussed was what to do about attorneys who are late or no-shows up for hearings, depositions, or conferences.

One attorney panelist said that because he sometimes has been late, he usually does not make a big deal of another attorney being late or even a “no-show.”  Very civil of him, indeed. And then he said something that really surprised me. He said that he usually just absorbs the loss as he does not bill his client for the extra time he had to wait on the other attorney or for the other attorney’s “no show.”  Now that is not only very civil, but also very unusual!

I often see in the legal bills where attorneys bill to attend a hearing, conference, or deposition where the other attorney (or the other attorney’s client) is a no show.  The question presented is whether it is ethical to bill your client for this without first asking that sanctions be assessed against the opposing party to at least recover the amount of fees being billed to the client.  I think that this impacts RPC 1.1 (Competence).  Specifically, is the attorney providing “competent” representation in this instance? Continue reading