Are Law Schools Missing The Boat When It Comes To Training Lawyers How To Fairly Bill For Their Services?

Posted on January 22nd, 2014 by Legal Fee Advisors

Recently, Nicole Black posted a MyCase blog entitled Things You Didn’t Learn in Law School: Billing.

Ms. Black’s point is this: law schools do not prepare their students on how to fairly and correctly bill clients.  Nicole gave an example of a lawyer who somehow saw it fit to bill his client for a 29 hour day.   She argues that knowing how to capture time correctly in order to avoid “falling into the trap of succumbing to billing pressures” and “overbilling” the client is not something law professors generally teach their students.

Per the blog, a few of the ways in which one can avoid excessive billing is to provide as much detail as possible, forego block billing, enter time contemporaneously, establish a reasonable fee estimate, avoid unexpected rate increases and bill on a regular basis.   With the advent of on-line billing, there is no doubt that providing invoices electronically has enhanced transparency in the processing and payment of bills.  Electronic billing provides both the law firm and the client the opportunity to save time and money.

It is unfortunate, however, that law students are rarely given the foundation for understanding this process or, any general sense of how to create efficiency and value in their billing practices. Law school training in effective billing practices, including early, written confirmation of a fee agreement, detailed descriptions of billing items and avoidance of block or vague billing, would go a long way in creating transparent, fair billing.

Whether outrageous billing practices are a result of a lack of law school training – or something else – Nicole Black’s blog inspires a deeper look into what our law schools are not teaching students – law practice management.

While law school teaches students how to think, read and write like a lawyer, law schools seem to believe that spending most of their time in law school reading countless pages of court decisions is the only way to develop needed skills. We disagree.

If law schools offered practical education from the beginning rather than grueling theoretical study throughout the three year program, students would find out much sooner whether they would enjoy working in the field and would potentially avoid wasting tremendous amounts of time and money.  Law schools simply don’t do this.

A lawyer must be able to recognize the client’s economic concerns, and implement creative and strategic thinking to devise possible solutions to their client’s problems. The lesson here is that law schools do not teach everything a lawyer needs to know in order to be effective in today’s legal marketplace. Teaching reasonable billing practices might be a good start.

R. Rosenberg

Legal Fee Advisors © 2014

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