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New Math? How 10 = 20

April 28, 2012

Here is how your lawyer turns 10 hours of actual legal work on your case into 20 hours of billable time.

  • Rounding up – 3.6 becomes 4.0, 19 minutes becomes a half hour
  • Multiple minimum entries of 0.1 (or .25 as some firms do) for each task.  Thus, if you read 10 quick e-mails that is 10 entries of 0.1 for a total of 1.0 hours even though it actually took less than 12 minutes (0.2)
  • Value billing – assigning a standard minimum time to a task no matter how long it actually takes.  Any letter, i.e., draft correspondence to . . ., gets a 0.5 even if it only takes 5 minutes (0.1).  Of course, if it takes 46 minutes, make sure to round up to 1.0.  Except too many of those looks suspicious, so make it a 0.9 or 1.1 instead.
  • Good old-fashion bill padding – all of the above are ways to “fudge” the numbers a little.  Most lawyers have a monthly quota they have to hit – let’s say it is 180 hours per month (this is a median number, by the way).  That comes out to about 9 hours per work day.  To hit that number legitimately means you are in the office about 12 hours and are working non-stop.  But a 9 to 6 day with an hour of lunch equals only 8 hours in the office, much less real work time.  So just add a little time to each file you worked on, so you get to that magic average of 9 hours per day.
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