Caution: “Chipping” Away at Block Billing Lawyers May Actually be Creating Legal Billing Loopholes

I would think that everyone who reads this blog (i.e., lawyers and those who review lawyers’ bills) already knows what the term “block billing” refers to and the problems associated with block billing. However, for those who do not know what block billing is, it is the use of a single time entry to describe two or more separate without disclosing how much time was spent on each task.

Most litigation and billing guidelines prohibit block billing.  And most courts that have ever considered the issue have condemned the practice for a variety of reasons.  See, e.g., Welch v. Met Life Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 942, 948 (9th Cir. 2007) (court finding that block-billed hours may overstate the hours incurred and make it more difficult to determine how much time was spent on particular activities).

While many lawyers may grouse about having to avoid block billing, some lawyers have thrived on the prohibition by finding a loophole. (But isn’t that what lawyers are supposed to do – find loopholes?). They have found that they can make up for the lost block billing revenue by engaging in what is known in legal bill review parlance as “chipping.” Continue reading