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For many attorneys the question of how to know when you're billing too much is puzzling because the concept of "billing too much" is just unimaginable nonsense. At least until a client says they don't want to pay "that much for that."
But for an increasing number of attorneys, this is a legitimate question to ask. Below you can get some pointers on avoiding over-billing.
Will Your Client or the Court Scoff?
Has the court ever cut down your hourly rate, or questioned your fees? Has a client ever protested the amount of a bill?
When attorneys are faced with these situations, it's best to ensure that you have a reasonable explanation for your hours. That means alway avoid excessive and bad billing practices, as neither lend themselves well to "reasonable explanation." If you have a good reason for doing the work you did, and your rates are within industry standards, a client and a court should accept it, though getting either to listen is often the bigger challenge.
Are You Billing More Than You're Working?
One easy test to decide whether you're over-billing is to compare the number of hours billed to the number of hours in a day. If you are billing more hours than there are in a day, or in all seriousness, just more than you are actually working, you may have a real problem. While a distraction here or there isn't the end of the world, when they start to pile up, or bills start getting padded, it can potentially lead to some questions.
Do You Think It's Reasonable?
Reasonableness is partly contextual. Some attorneys may not want to ask themselves about whether their own bills are reasonable, but it is a good practice. Reviewing your bill from the perspective of your client is always a good idea. If you spent half a day drafting a motion, including more than just a three or four word line item will make the client feel better about shelling out over a $1,000 for that.