The Reasonable Factor: Ensuring Legal Fee Recovery  Through Reasonable Billing Standards Jacqueline S. Vinaccia, Esq. Loun...
WE ALL NEED TO BE PROFITABLE!
WHAT IS REASONABLE? <ul><li>In  Ursic v. Bethlehem Mines , the court held that, </li></ul><ul><li>“ [d]ouble dipping, in a...
WHAT IS REASONABLE? <ul><li>Factors that need to be considered in determining a reasonable fee include: </li></ul><ul><ul>...
Start at the beginning…. COMMUNICATE!
COMMUNICATE <ul><li>With your clients </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Give timeframe estimates for completing a task. </li></ul></ul...
Communicate Through Your Billing Descriptions <ul><li>Billing descriptions should be a short explanation of what was done ...
Improper Billing Practices
CLERICAL BILLING <ul><li>Let your secretary do his/her job! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Making Copies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li...
Example of Clerical Billing
BLOCK BILLING <ul><li>Block Billing is the practice by which multiple tasks are lumped into one single time entry. </li></...
Example of Block Billing
INADEQUATE BILLING <ul><li>General or vague work descriptions are an unacceptable billing practice.  </li></ul><ul><li>Tim...
Example of Inadequate Billing
INTRA-OFFICE CONFERENCING <ul><li>“ A standard pattern of excessive communication…cannot be considered to be quality billa...
Example of Intra-Office Conferencing
USE GOOD BILLING JUDGMENT <ul><li>If I were the client, would I pay this bill if you presented it to me? </li></ul><ul><li...
CONTACT INFORMATION <ul><li>Jacqueline S. Vinaccia, Esq. </li></ul><ul><li>Senior Litigation Counsel </li></ul><ul><li>Leg...
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Nafla Presentation 06.24.10

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Presentation for NALFA June 2010 Confernece

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Nafla Presentation 06.24.10

  1. 1. The Reasonable Factor: Ensuring Legal Fee Recovery Through Reasonable Billing Standards Jacqueline S. Vinaccia, Esq. Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak, LLP Presented to The NALFA Second Annual Los Angeles Attorney Fee Conference: “It Pays to Be Reasonable” June 24, 2010
  2. 2. WE ALL NEED TO BE PROFITABLE!
  3. 3. WHAT IS REASONABLE? <ul><li>In Ursic v. Bethlehem Mines , the court held that, </li></ul><ul><li>“ [d]ouble dipping, in any form, cannot be condoned. </li></ul><ul><li>Our cases supply no authorities for rewarding non </li></ul><ul><li>stop meter running in law offices. A Michelangelo </li></ul><ul><li>should not charge Sistine Chapel rates for </li></ul><ul><li>painting a farmer’s barn.” 719 F.2d 670, 677 (3d </li></ul><ul><li>Cir. 1983) (holding that highly skilled attorneys who </li></ul><ul><li>charge premium rates due to their expertise in an </li></ul><ul><li>area of law should neither be running up long hours </li></ul><ul><li>for researching law nor performing routine tasks.) </li></ul>
  4. 4. WHAT IS REASONABLE? <ul><li>Factors that need to be considered in determining a reasonable fee include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Substantive area of law </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Experience Level (Associate vs. Partner) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Level of Expertise </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Geographic Location </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Start at the beginning…. COMMUNICATE!
  6. 6. COMMUNICATE <ul><li>With your clients </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Give timeframe estimates for completing a task. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make sure you are doing what has been requested. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Time is money and your clients may not want to pay for certain services. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Put it in the Retainer Agreement </li></ul>
  7. 7. Communicate Through Your Billing Descriptions <ul><li>Billing descriptions should be a short explanation of what was done and WHY </li></ul><ul><li>Use page, name and date references when necessary. </li></ul><ul><li>When there are multiple drafts or edits, indicate it in the entry. </li></ul>
  8. 8. Improper Billing Practices
  9. 9. CLERICAL BILLING <ul><li>Let your secretary do his/her job! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Making Copies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Calling Court Reporters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Organizing Files </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reviewing Case File </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Scheduling Meetings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Loading Documents into Databases </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Example of Clerical Billing
  11. 11. BLOCK BILLING <ul><li>Block Billing is the practice by which multiple tasks are lumped into one single time entry. </li></ul><ul><li>Fee statements (i.e. billing entries) should be itemized by task and not aggregated on a daily basis. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Example of Block Billing
  13. 13. INADEQUATE BILLING <ul><li>General or vague work descriptions are an unacceptable billing practice. </li></ul><ul><li>Time entries should specify the attorney, the date, the hours expended, and a description of the work done sufficient to evaluate its appropriateness . </li></ul><ul><li>Start up time. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Example of Inadequate Billing
  15. 15. INTRA-OFFICE CONFERENCING <ul><li>“ A standard pattern of excessive communication…cannot be considered to be quality billable hours reasonably chargeable to the client.” In re Colorado-Ute Electric Association, Inc. 132 B.R. 174, 178 (Bkrtcy.D.Colo., 1991) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Example of Intra-Office Conferencing
  17. 17. USE GOOD BILLING JUDGMENT <ul><li>If I were the client, would I pay this bill if you presented it to me? </li></ul><ul><li>Is the task beneficial to the advancement of the case? </li></ul><ul><li>Are your entries sufficiently described? </li></ul>
  18. 18. CONTACT INFORMATION <ul><li>Jacqueline S. Vinaccia, Esq. </li></ul><ul><li>Senior Litigation Counsel </li></ul><ul><li>Legal Fee Audit Expert </li></ul><ul><li>LOUNSBERY FERGUSON ALTONA & PEAK, LLP </li></ul><ul><li>960 Canterbury Place, Suite 300 </li></ul><ul><li>Escondido, CA 92025 </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Main Office: (760) 743-1201 </li></ul>

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