• kabessi

Double-Billing = NOT COOL!

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Your attorney has to be at court for a hearing on your behalf. The drive from his office is about a half-hour each way, and the time required for the court appearance is one full hour. Now if your attorney spends the time in the car listening to Bloomberg Radio or some Alanis Morissette (I've been listening to a lot of Alanis Morissette recently), then you can be ethically billed for the entire two hours. And that's only fair; there's nothing really logical about including all the preparation for the appearance as a billable effort, but excluding all of the execution pertaining to that preparation. So under this scenario, and assuming you're charged an hourly rate of $250 instead of an upfront flat fee, you're out $500.

But what if the attorney is taking calls on behalf of other clients during the court commutes?

This is where the potential - and temptation - for double-billing by law firms rears its ugly head. Attorneys often have a very easy time justifying charging not only the clients who are benefitting from those commute-timed phone calls, but also - still - you, as well. That means that, assuming the same rate, you're still charged $500, but the attorney also pockets another $250 for spending the two 30-minute rides facilitating other client matters. It's as if the attorney magically turned into two people while he was behind the wheel. Seems like you may have some competition, Dr. Strange!

Well guess what? Despite attorneys' best arguments for defending this practice, it is generally considered a BIIIIIG no-no in the legal profession. The American Bar Association (ABA) itself has been unequivocal in its position against double-billing (see this piece, for example), and it's fairly well-settled that it's quite simply the wrong thing to do. But let's not kid ourselves; of course you're going to have firms at least "lightly" engage in this practice. And let's not kid ourselves, part II; done wisely, those firms will largely fly under the radar, although sanctions or worse penalties against firms have certainly been levied. This is a great law review article on the subject, and worth reading if you're so inclined.

Does Abessi Law double-bill? Well, I suppose if the Firm did, it wouldn't admit as much here, so that's a pretty dumb question to ask, I'll give you that. But... no, Abessi Law most certainly has not or would not ever engage in such a practice. The firm's owner, Kevin Abessi takes proper ethics very seriously, not only with respect to his legal practice, but other facets of his personal and professional lives, as well. He's too committed to managing his firm by the book - and too paranoid that someone would catch him - to double-bill clients. Arguably Abessi's strongest professional belief is that good ethics and treating customers with fairness and deference is the best long-term strategy for one's business success; double-billing, of course, runs counter to that hypothesis.

Abessi Law enjoys talking about legal ethics about as much as he likes handling family, business, estate, and litigation matters. So when you give the Firm a call for a free consultation, the priority will be entirely your representation-based needs. However, if you want to set aside a few minutes or so to discuss ethics and what firms should and should not be doing, Kevin will be more than happy to engage in that conversation, as well.

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