Five Questionable Legal Billing Practices That Are Increasing During the Pandemic

The global pandemic has significantly altered how individuals and businesses work on a daily basis. Working from home has several difficulties, including an increase in some overcharges that may appear on a client’s legal bill.

Let’s examine in detail why in-house legal teams should be on the watch for specific overcharges on their outside counsel invoices, particularly during fiscal years in which businesses must find strategies to reduce cash outflow and make up for losses.

Here are five questionable charging methods that have been on the increase among home-based attorneys:

Failure to Delegate

Senior attorneys have a number of difficulties when they work from home, including the absence of their customary support team. Moreover, they may still be adjusting to their remote working technologies. Consequently, work that they would have given to junior attorneys or even paralegals under normal conditions is more difficult to delegate, and they frequently do it themselves. It’s an issue since they labor at a far greater rate than their subordinates, which may significantly increase the cost of high-priced lawyers spending hours performing legal “grunt work.”

Duplicative Work

When attorneys work from home, they have fewer opportunities to organically interact and coordinate, increasing the likelihood that two attorneys will simultaneously work on the same assignment. If they both bill for it, it’s a no-no; the client receives no advantage from having the same work performed twice.

Excessive Time

Typically the most prevalent complaint of customers, this has grown more likely during quarantine. Is it realistic that a work-at-home attorney worked seven hours straight on a client’s case without pausing to check on the children or do the laundry, given all the distractions in the home? The fact is that the way we work has evolved, and companies should bill accordingly.

“Caretaking” Charges

Despite the fact that the pandemic has raised the demand for legal work (such as employee health/safety, legal responsibility, and regulatory compliance counsel), it has occasionally halted the legal process. When local infection rates spike, in-person trials, hearings, and other legal proceedings may be postponed indefinitely. When firms continue to bill for minor charges related to matters that are on hold, such as billing to “monitor,” “review,” or “correspond” about a matter without any real tangible activity (such as a hearing or deposition), it raises the question of whether the “work” being done was truly necessary, or if these charges were a way for the firm to bill a few extra hours during a slow month.

“Phantom” Expenses

Despite the transition away from the office, many businesses continue to forward charges to clients that may no longer be justified. In the event that an attorney bills for travel expenses, was the trip truly necessary? In fact, several courts now permit virtual conversations in lieu of personal attendance. Similarly, if a company charges for room hosting, such as for a mediation, can you be certain that the mediation took place in person, or did the conference room only serve as a Zoom backdrop? It is prudent to inquire before agreeing to pay for these expenses.

These are but a few of the ways in which businesses overcharge their customers now that many of their attorneys work from home. It is more critical than ever to not only detect these high fees but also to have professionals who can negotiate with legal firms to have them lowered or eliminated.

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