What is and isn't billable?

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Flynnsanity

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What is and isn't billable?

Postby Flynnsanity » Mon Nov 28, 2016 2:59 pm

Heading to BigLaw, and I'm sure that my firm will explain what can and cannot be billed to a client. I also expect that there will be some differences among firms. But this is all new to me, and I'd appreciate some general explanations of what is and isn't billable.

My current conceptions:

Billable—research, drafting, proofreading, and emailing or discussing a task with another lawyer.

Not billable—deciding how best to research your issue, preparing binders of materials, and checking an issue related to your task that you think isn't likely relevant.

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:05 pm

Also - what stops you from making stuff up?

What if your research took you only an hour but you bill it as 3 hours? How would they find out?

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:09 pm

I'm not in biglaw, but I did an SA and worked for a large law firm in a billable position before law school.

Everything you've described is billable. If you're working on a matter, you should be billing your time unless, of course, you get specific direction from a partner. Don't worry about billing a lot of hours on something. It's the partner's job to decide what to pass on to a client and what to write off.

Things that are no billable*: commuting, eating lunch, coffee breaks, etc.

*Assuming you're not working on something as you're doing these things

To your second question: padding happens. That doesn't mean you should be doing it. Partners should be keeping an eye on you, and you are seriously violating ethical guidelines (and likely committing fraud) if you are charging someone for work you did not actually do.

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TheSpanishMain

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby TheSpanishMain » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:12 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Also - what stops you from making stuff up?


The fear of losing your license for defrauding a client (and hopefully, your own moral compass.)

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kalvano

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby kalvano » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:21 pm

For the first several years, bill everything every time you touch a client's matter and let a partner decide whether to write it down. DO NOT write down time on your own based on your notion of what is and isn't billable. You'll cheat your firm and yourself out of hours that should be billed to a client.

Everything you listed as "non-billable" is 100% billable for your purposes. Partners know generally the amount of time an assignment should take and can write down as appropriate.

As to fraud, do you really need a reason not to defraud clients?

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:26 pm

So if you are simply genius and time efficient, (theoretically speaking), and are able to finish tasks extremely quickly, you basically have to do way more work to fill your hours than others? Isn't it, at that point, better to slow down and lengthen how long the task takes you?

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checkers

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby checkers » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:29 pm

To add to the above, your hourly rate is relatively low because your inexperience and inefficiency is already accounted for. Therefore, you should not discount your hours because you realize that a more experienced lawyer could have done the task quicker. Don't overthink the system: just bill when you work, and don't bill when you don't work.

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elendinel

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby elendinel » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:31 pm

Not only should the idea of defrauding clients convince you not to overbill, but:

- If you spend 3 hours doing something the client thinks you only needed 1 to do, you're going to have to have a good excuse for why it took 3 hours, otherwise the client may complain about the amount of money they're paying for whatever you did, your supervisor's going to have to write off the time, and they're going to be less willing to work with you in the future (and even less so if it happens frequently). Sometimes clients have unrealistic expectations, but if you overbill, chances are you're going to grossly exceed those expectations, making them even more annoyed.

- Billed hours are generally used as a barometer of your efficiency by the partner/associate in charge of reviewing your work. No one's going to staff you on important work if someone else can work on two projects in the span of time it supposedly took you to complete one. So even if it really did take you 3 hours, they're going to go with the other associate who did actually do it in one, so that that associate can also be given a few other things to do in parallel (giving that associate more chances to get on a bigger project down the line). This is true even on clients who don't look at bills as much.

As for when to bill/when not to, anything you do that is work for a client should technically be billed. That includes outlining how you'll research something, exploring avenues that are related to your research (even if you're not sure you'll need to worry about those issues), client correspondence, etc. Things that wouldn't count would include things such as lunch breaks, conversations with co-workers, traveling, etc. Every partner at every firm, however, is going to have their own ideas as to how much of writing off time should be your problem, so sometimes maybe you won't be able to bill for explaining something to a client over email/a phone call, or maybe the partner will tell you to bill up to 5 hours on a project that would take any reasonable person at least 7 hours to do, etc. You shouldn't make that determination yourself, though; you should wait to be told "we don't bill for that" before self-cutting your hours. That way, too, if someone questions why your hours are what they are, you can honestly say that you were actively told not to bill for various things.

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Nov 28, 2016 3:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:So if you are simply genius and time efficient, (theoretically speaking), and are able to finish tasks extremely quickly, you basically have to do way more work to fill your hours than others?


Yes. Welcome to Biglaw.

On the plus side, the "reward" of being so efficient is that you will quickly (for better or worse) become the go-to person for a lot of different senior associates/partners.

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 29, 2016 9:40 am

Is it possible to bill the time you are pooping at work? If you poop ten minutes a day, in a year that would equal 40 billlable hours. If they bill around 700 an hour, a company just spent almost $30,000 for you pooping.

Law school is worth it.

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zot1

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby zot1 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 10:28 am

Anonymous User wrote:Is it possible to bill the time you are pooping at work? If you poop ten minutes a day, in a year that would equal 40 billlable hours. If they bill around 700 an hour, a company just spent almost $30,000 for you pooping.

Law school is worth it.


Only if you're thinking about a client matter while pooping.

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homestyle28

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby homestyle28 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 10:54 pm

TCR: if you are giving attention to a matter, bill it. Let partner decide how to adjust it.

That quick response email you sent on a saturday morning? bill it.
Thinking about how to structure a draft before you start writing? part of drafting.
Making binders for a partner to take a dep? Assist with prep, review materials etc.

Don't make things up, but don't discount the work this profession makes you do just b/c you're a johnny try-hard.

If you don't think you can bill for it, but it still needs to be done, find a paralegal to do it. No paralegals? Do it yourself and bill it.

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Desert Fox

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby Desert Fox » Tue Nov 29, 2016 11:06 pm

There is no ethical diving line between billable and nonbillable. I billed a F500 company for watching captain America 2 on an airplane. I've billed thousand of dollars worth of time turning the single quote mark backwards. I've billed for making copies.

That said clients will refuse to pay for some stuff. At that point it's all about the narrative. Spent 15 minutes making copies for a meeting? No I was "preparing for meeting .25 hours."
Last edited by Desert Fox on Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:11 am, edited 1 time in total.

bk1

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Re: What is and isn't billable?

Postby bk1 » Tue Nov 29, 2016 11:13 pm

Desert Fox wrote:I've billed thousand of dollars worth of time turning the single quote mark backwards.

:lol:



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