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How a 10-Minute Hearing Can Cost You $3,265.17

May 2, 2012

The average U.S attorney now charges $540 per hour (Thomson Reuters:  “Rich Lawyers are Getting Richer Faster”).  Let’s assume you have a Case Management Conference downtown at 8:30 a.m.  Your lawyer starts the clock at about 7:30 for “Travel to CMC – 1.0,” safeguarding against any traffic.  Once he gets to court, he sits with all the other attorneys waiting for their matters to be heard.  It is commonplace to wait for a couple hours or more before your matter is called.  So the actual hearing starts at 10:50 and lasts 10 minutes and covers routine matters.  You get your next time entry – “Prepare for and attend CMC – 2.5.”  Now, he heads back to the office which takes 45 minutes – “Travel from CMC – 0.8.”  Grand total if you are lucky – 4.3 hours at $540 per = $2,322.00 for a routine 10-minute hearing.

It could be worse.  It IS lunchtime now, and your attorney has to get in his daily 9 billable hours to hit his quota.  He has been working on your case after all, so on the way back to the office he stops at the local deli for a pastrami and iced tea ($25.17, with a nice tip) while reading the sports page .  By the time he gets back to his desk and actually starts working on another file, it is now 1:30 p.m.  7:30 to 1:30 is 6 hours.  So a little revision is in order.  “Travel to CMC – 1.0”, “Prepare for CMC – 0.5”, “Attend CMC hearing – 3.5” and “Travel from CMC – 1.0” for grand total of 6 billable hours.  6.0 times $540 = $3,240 + $25.17 of costs = $3,265.17.  If you don’t think this happens, I’d like to sell you a timeshare in Siberia.

Here is how I would want this hearing handled if I was cutting the check.  $75 for CourtCall.  Let’s say 15 minutes for the hearing to allow for a little time setting up the call – “Attend CMC via CourtCall – 0.3.”  While my attorney is on hold, he can work on other cases or my case, but he is not billing me $540 an hour to listen to talk radio and/or fiddle with his iPhone while waiting for the hearing.  Grand total for my attorney – 0.3 hours times $540 = $162 + $75 = $237.00.  For the same 10-minute hearing.  If you find an attorney who bills this fairly, I suggest giving him or her a rate increase.  This is an attorney that deserves $1,000 an hour (“Can an Attorney be Worth $1,000 an Hour?”).

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