Padding a Legal Bill

Although this is somewhat off-topic, the issue of attorneys padding their legal bills is important for every client.

According to this article in the New York Times, DLA Piper is accused of padding its bill for client Adam H. Victor.

Mr. Victor has even produced emails with DLA Piper lawyers joking about their work – “churn that bill, baby!”

This practice probably occurs more than most lawyers will admit. I’ve seen it when representing plaintiffs from defense attorneys – the silly demurrers, motions and ridiculous answers to routine discovery requests, all designed for the defense firm to squeeze more billable hours out of a case.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys don’t get a free pass – I’ve seen inflated and unnecessary expenses charged to clients. And some attorneys simply ignore the fee agreement and take more than allowed!

Don’t even get me started on Dickie Scruggs.

I see it in cases in which liability is clear – the employer/client knows that the unlawful practice occurred – but the discovery goes on anyway just to have the case settle later, as it should have to begin with.

I once represented a business in a matter after a civil sexual harassment case was settled. In the file I received from the business were invoices for legal services from the business’ big national law firm. The legal expenses alone exceeded $250,000 for a routine sexual harassment case with no unusual legal issues. The business’ president told me there was no question the sexual harassment occurred. After the extensive discovery to discover what they already knew, the business settled the case at mediation for an amount less than $100,000.00. I asked why they didn’t settle the case at the beginning and was told the lawyers recommended full discovery.

The law firm did well – but not its client.

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