Inaccurate Billing Leads to Attorney Disbarment

Posted on July 2nd, 2014 by Legal Fee Advisors

On March 28, 2014, the Georgia Supreme court disbarred an attorney for overbilling her client, misleading the court about how much she earned in fees, and fabricating inaccurate billing statements. The 4-2 decision agrees with the recommendation of a special master who conducted an investigation of the attorney’s conduct in response to a grievance a former client filed with the Bar. In his report, the special master found the attorney’s conduct involving unsubstantiated legal billings inexcusable.
According to the decision by the court, on multiple occasions the attorney had submitted “wholly unsupported and materially misleading time sheets and invoices to her client” and misrepresented the hours she worked and the fees she earned.[2]  In particular, she did not keep contemporaneous time records, and prepared from memory vague time sheets including a one-line time sheet that reflected 50 hours of work over a two month period, and a bill for 170 hours of work over a period between February and April 2010 that did not contain any details of what was done or how much time was spent on any particular task.  In addition to providing her client with misleading and inaccurate time sheets, the attorney claimed an hourly rate that was $240.00 higher than her authority as well as billed for time spent for a social outing and a telephone conference that did not take place.The question, then, is what can be done in the future to ensure an attorney ethically and accurately bills her clients?  One solution would be for attorneys and firms to implement a monitoring and oversight system in order to establish a level of transparency regarding how lawyers record their tasks and ensure they bill their time contemporaneously with time spent on legal work.  Even though the majority of attorneys understand that they should bill accurately and only for work actually performed, the lack of transparency in legal billing is a very real problem that leads to inaccurate and misleading billing, and needs to be closely watched. If an effective monitoring and billing system agreed to by the law firm and client that required the attorney to bill timely and provide frequent detail on the billing were in place, the client in this case may have caught this attorney’s billing issues before it became a problem.J. ClarkLegal Fee Advisors © 2014

[1] Rhonda Cook, Georgia high court disbars former Congresswoman Majette, (last updated Mar. 28, 2014)

[2] In re Majette, 757 S.E.2d 114 (Ga. 2014)

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