In doing seminars for lawyers on the ethics of legal billing, I remind them that their clients may not read their 20 page brief that they sweated bullets over to prepare and is perfect in every detail, but they will read their legal bills. And, as I remind them, in addition to it being just good plain business sense to send out clearly worded legal bills that clients can understand, lawyers also have an ethical duty to do so. See ABA Formal Op. 93-370 at p. 3.
But despite the common sense and ethical reasons for sending out clearly worded legal bills, I so often see legal bills that are not only not clearly worded, but downright sloppy. Whenever I see these types of legal bills, I get the feeling that some attorneys and their law firms have a sort of death wish. For not only do their legal bills only invite client angst, they also can result in delays in payment or reductions taken for questionable entries and often end with hurt feelings all around.
And it is not the small firms who cannot afford the sophisticated billing systems that have sloppy legal bills. I have reviewed legal bills from some of the largest law firms in the U.S. and find that their legal bills can be just as sloppy. By sloppy, I mean such things as misspelled words, hard to figure out abbreviations, and insufficient explanations of tasks.
Apart from the issue of sloppiness which unintentionally causes billing issues, there is the issue of the intentional use of phrases in legal bill entries that are designed to deceive rather than to inform. In the deception category are billing entries for . . .
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