Legal Malpractice Insurer Advice To Lawyers: Engage in “Good Billing Practices” & Avoid “Billing Mistakes”

Recently, I made a stab at getting caught up on my reading. Included in my pile of reading material from the past several months was the Fall 2017 newsletter from the Lawyers Mutual Insurance Company of Kentucky (LMICK). As a proud, long time member of the Kentucky Bar Association, I am on LMICK’s  mailing list.

The reason I had put the LMICK newsletter aside to read when I had time was that I noted that several pages were devoted to legal billing issues. Coming at it from a “risk management” prospective, the newsletter admonished attorneys to engage in “good billing practices” and “avoid common billing mistakes.”

Here are some of what LMICK listed as “billing mistakes” along with their side comments:

  • The bill is as big as the client’s file – looks like over-practicing the matter.
  • Secret identities – no names and no billing rates for the work done.
  • Over-qualified personnel for the work or conversely charging lawyer rates for administrative work.
  • Too many meetings, telephone calls, and research hours – looks like over-practicing the matter.
  • Billing for several lawyers reviewing or preparing to discuss the file – looks like over-practicing the matter.
  • Billing for several lawyers attending a meeting when one would have been adequate – looks like over-practicing the matter.
  • Itemized bills with generic terms such as “phone call” or “meeting” with no substantive information.
  • All telephone calls take exactly .2 hour; all dollar amounts are nice round number or end in five.

Welcome to  my world, LMICK.

The LMICK “common billing mistakes” are the same ones I see all the time in legal bills. However, I find that when I confront lawyers with any of these or other “common billing mistakes,” many lawyers will claim that they see nothing wrong with billing the way they are billing.  When this happens in the future, I think I will tell that lawyer to not just take my word for it, but to check with the firm’s malpractice insurer on the point and let me know what the insurer says.

In fact, as I am such a nice guy, if the lawyer will give me the name of the firm’s malpractice insurer, I will do it for the lawyer.  I will be doing both the lawyer and the firm’s insurer a favor. For having worked with malpractice insurers, I know that they would appreciate having information on any of their insured lawyers who do not engage in “good billing practices” and are oblivious to “common billing mistakes.”

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If you have anything from a question on a single legal billing issue to the need for an expert opinion on the reasonableness of a set of large legal bills, please feel free to contact me at jconlon@legalpointsllc.com.

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