Despite a trend towards more flat fee arrangements, most law firms still bill their clients by the hour. Associates must bill enough hours to pay their salary, overhead and make a nice profit for the firm. Firms often require 1700 to 2300 billable hours per year, leaving attorneys in a precarious situation. The more they bill, the more money the firm makes. Therefore, there is an incentive to work around the clock.
However, Ohio attorney Kristin Ann Stahlbush has been suspended, not for working around the clock, but for working around several clocks. According to the Ohio Supreme Court, Stahlbush billed the court of Lucas County, Ohio for more than 24 hours a day on multiple occasions. She also turned in other bills of dubious nature, including five bills for days of over 20 hours. Kristin Ann Stahlbush was investigated by the Ohio Bar Association and suspended for two years. The second year may be stayed if she meets the conditions of her suspension.
According to the court, Stahlbush did not keep adequate records of her time, exaggerated her fee requests and on occasion "guessed at the time she had spent on a case." In total, she billed the county for 3,451 billable hours. The number is ludicrous when put into context: attorneys can typically only bill about one hour for every hour and a half they work. In other words, by approximation, Stahlbush submitted that she worked 100 hour weeks, every week, for the entire year, and billed 66 hours each week. Stahlbush later acknowledged that she had not in fact worked that many hours.
The Court agreed 6-0 with the findings of the board, which ruled that she violated rules against fraud, deceit, dishonesty, misrepresentation, charging an excessive fee, engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and engaging in conduct that adversely reflects on the attorney's fitness to practice law.
At least now Stahlbush will have time to catch up on that vacation she had been putting off with all of those long hours.