All attorneys have an ethical obligation to provide a “sufficient explanation” in their billing entries. See ABA Formal Op. 93-370 (1993) at p. 3 (attorney must provide a “sufficient explanation in the statement so that the client may reasonably be expected to understand what fees and other charges the client is actually being billed”). This ethical obligation to provide sufficient explanations of billing entries is a part of an attorney’s ethical duty as found in RPC 1.4(b) (“A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”).
Without sufficiently explained entries, courts have held that it is impossible for any fee bill to be reviewed for reasonableness. See Daniel Orme v. Burlington Coat Factory of Oregon, LLC, 2010 WL 1838740 (D. Or. 2010)(attorney “must provide enough detail for the court to determine whether the time spent on a task was reasonable.”). As a result, courts are uniform in denying payment for legal work that is not sufficiently explained. See Grievson v. Rochester Psychiatric Center, 2010 WL 3894983 at *8 (W.D.N.Y. 2010)(“Individual entries that include only vague and generic descriptions of the work performed do not provide an adequate basis upon which to evaluate the reasonableness of the time spent.”).
Since the providing a sufficient explanation of billing entries may mean the difference in getting paid or not, an attorney rightly may ask what exactly constitutes a “sufficient explanation?” Or stated another way, how much detail should be provided in a billing entry?
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