Reply To: Can a law firm charge for work completed by non-attorneys?
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A law firm should only charge for time billed by professional-level staff. Professional-level staff are staff that have legal knowledge. This includes attorneys and paralegals. If a task does not require legal knowledge and can easily be completed by a non-legal professional, (such as submitting filings, serving documents, mailing documents, scheduling depositions, opening or closing matters, proofreading, copying, scanning, printing, preparing document logs that do not require judgment or substantive knowledge, preparing form transmittal letters, downloading, uploading, etc.), the law firm should not charge for the task. Such costs should be absorbed as part of the firm’s overhead.
Most companies refuse to pay for these types of tasks and consider them to be “clerical” tasks. Some companies even include tasks completed by summer associates in this category and refuse to pay for such time. Additionally, courts, including the United States Supreme Court, have reduced fees or refused to award fees for clerical tasks reasoning that these tasks do not require legal expertise to be carried out and are administrative tasks. Consequently, it is against legal standards and generally accepted commercial standards for an attorney to charge for clerical tasks or tasks completed by non-professional level staff.