Billing Question

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Billing Question

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:05 pm

I know that the saying to first years is always “bill everything you do. Don’t cut your hours. That’s not your job, etc...”

But, what if I messed something up and half of my time spent on a project is fixing that mistake? Am I really just supposed to bill the entire amount of time?

I asked another junior associate and he said to just bill it because I spent that time working on it. But isn’t that unethical?

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LaLiLuLeLo

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Re: Billing Question

Postby LaLiLuLeLo » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:06 pm

Bill it. Why would you think it’s unethical? You’re still working.

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Re: Billing Question

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:12 pm

I just feel like it is double billing for something

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LaLiLuLeLo

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Re: Billing Question

Postby LaLiLuLeLo » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I just feel like it is double billing for something


Is it unethical if you bill 1 hour for something a senior could do in 15 minutes? You aren’t double billing, you are actually doing the work, just inefficiently. But that can’t be helped.

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kalvano

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Re: Billing Question

Postby kalvano » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:44 pm

Billing rates for juniors are lower because errors and more time on projects is expected.

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Re: Billing Question

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 25, 2018 5:59 pm

I'm a second year. I had one partner get mad at me for billing inefficiently the first time I did something. Then I had another partner get mad at me for "artificially lowering my hours" when I did something (basically error-free, I may add) more efficiently than they expected.

Can't win at this game. You're going to get fucked either way, so you might as well get fucked in the way that makes sure you hit billable minimums or whatever. Don't cut your hours.

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Re: Billing Question

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:49 pm

OP here. Thanks for the responses. I guess the consensus is that I should just bill for whatever I actually do, even if it is correcting my own mistakes.

Luckily the partners haven’t said anything to me about it yet.

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Lincoln

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Re: Billing Question

Postby Lincoln » Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:53 pm

Many partners will just write off hours that they think the client would object to, so if you spent 50 hrs writing a memo, they might just cut it to 20 to avoid disputes with the client. You, yourself, however, should not make such a determination or adjust your hours accordingly.

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Re: Billing Question

Postby lolwat » Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:54 pm

Bill for all the time you spent actually doing the work--including fixing errors.

But don't bill for the time you spent on TLS asking whether you should bill for work you've done,

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LaLiLuLeLo

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Re: Billing Question

Postby LaLiLuLeLo » Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:27 pm

lolwat wrote:
But don't bill for the time you spent on TLS asking whether you should bill for work you've done,


OP was thinking about the matter. Bill.

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Re: Billing Question

Postby mecarey » Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:. . . But isn’t that unethical?


The most enlightening explanation I ever heard on this lands on the exact opposite conclusion - that it's unethical to NOT bill the time. Flip your logic.

- The firm (partnership) is paying you money to be there and work on projects.
- The way the partners are compensated for your work is via your time billed.
- The partnership sets your billing rate based on your efficiency rate, experience level, value added, etc.

If you don't bill all of your time spent on a matter, you are, in effect, stealing from the firm. The decision on whether or not to bill your time to the client is NOT a decision that is yours to make. That is a decision for the partnership. If you are not billing the time spend, you are removing any possibility of the partners being compensated for your time - time that they are paying for via your salary, benefits, bonus, etc. You are also lowering your effective billing rate by only billing for some of the time you spend. That, again, is not your decision to make. The billing agreement decided on between the firm and the client already decided what you are worth based on your experience and efficiency.

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RedGiant

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Re: Billing Question

Postby RedGiant » Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:58 am

Anonymous User wrote:I know that the saying to first years is always “bill everything you do. Don’t cut your hours. That’s not your job, etc...”

But, what if I messed something up and half of my time spent on a project is fixing that mistake? Am I really just supposed to bill the entire amount of time?

I asked another junior associate and he said to just bill it because I spent that time working on it. But isn’t that unethical?


This may vary firm to firm, but at every firm I've worked at, if there is a significant amount of "re-do" time, then you bill all of the time, and then follow your firm's procedures for initiating a write off. At one of my firms, you would put a caret in after your time entry in the billing system and write something like: "Partner X - Please write off 1.3 of this due to correcting duplicating department error/checking duplication." At another firm, you would initiate an email to billing to write off the time. At another firm, you would email the billing partner's secretary with the Time Entry Number and ask for X to be written off for Y reason.

It is unethical to bill for time that is clearly the firm's fault, and that's how I was taught at the firms I worked at, as both staff and an attorney. I am a little shocked at the answers her to bill for your own/the firm's mistake.

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Re: Billing Question

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:00 am

I don’t bill for stuff that is truly correcting an error that is my fault or the firm’s fault - for instance, I wouldn’t bill for correcting and re-filing a brief that was bounced by the court for some technical noncompliance with the local rules. That said, while I think reasonable minds can differ on what constitutes appropriate billing judgment, I generally don’t dock my time to account for inefficiency, going down dead ends researching, misunderstanding the task, etc.

Also, at my firm, associates don’t initiate formal write-offs, although people write off their own time to varying degrees (even though you/they really should not). I have never heard of this happening at any big firm.

oblig.lawl.ref

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Re: Billing Question

Postby oblig.lawl.ref » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:28 am

RedGiant wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I know that the saying to first years is always “bill everything you do. Don’t cut your hours. That’s not your job, etc...”

But, what if I messed something up and half of my time spent on a project is fixing that mistake? Am I really just supposed to bill the entire amount of time?

I asked another junior associate and he said to just bill it because I spent that time working on it. But isn’t that unethical?


This may vary firm to firm, but at every firm I've worked at, if there is a significant amount of "re-do" time, then you bill all of the time, and then follow your firm's procedures for initiating a write off. At one of my firms, you would put a caret in after your time entry in the billing system and write something like: "Partner X - Please write off 1.3 of this due to correcting duplicating department error/checking duplication." At another firm, you would initiate an email to billing to write off the time. At another firm, you would email the billing partner's secretary with the Time Entry Number and ask for X to be written off for Y reason.

It is unethical to bill for time that is clearly the firm's fault, and that's how I was taught at the firms I worked at, as both staff and an attorney. I am a little shocked at the answers her to bill for your own/the firm's mistake.


I don't think it's *unethical* to bill for time you actually spend working on a matter ever, like in the technical sense of professional responsibility. It may not be a good idea. I don't think anyone is suggesting it's good for firms bill clients for 1st year mistakes but that's really a business issue, or at least only "unethical" in a kind of vernacular, business ethics, sense of the word.

My firm has a notes system where you can write notes to the bill. You're supposed to use that to tell partners that something should be written off. I know some people at my firm phrase their comments as "Please write off X" but I don't even do that. I normally just say take it under advisement. I think that's the partnership's call generally.

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Re: Billing Question

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 26, 2018 3:50 am

What if I listen to music and it takes me, say, 1.5 hours to do what I guess would take me 1 hour to do without music? I’m a first year Corp associate.

RaceJudicata

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Re: Billing Question

Postby RaceJudicata » Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:09 am

Anonymous User wrote:What if I listen to music and it takes me, say, 1.5 hours to do what I guess would take me 1 hour to do without music? I’m a first year Corp associate.


Are you singing along or breaking out dancing or something? Why does the music slow you down so much? But yes, bill.

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Re: Billing Question

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:07 am

RaceJudicata wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:What if I listen to music and it takes me, say, 1.5 hours to do what I guess would take me 1 hour to do without music? I’m a first year Corp associate.


Are you singing along or breaking out dancing or something? Why does the music slow you down so much? But yes, bill.


Lol, was just using that as an example; realize now that it was a little extreme. Sometimes I also watch Netflix on an extra screen when doing more brainless activities. I’m sure that doing so causes me to take a lot longer to finish projects, especially if we take into account double checking my work. Write off?

Damage Over Time

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Re: Billing Question

Postby Damage Over Time » Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote: Sometimes I also watch Netflix on an extra screen when doing more brainless activities. I’m sure that doing so causes me to take a lot longer to finish projects, especially if we take into account double checking my work.


This seems inappropriate/inconsiderate at best.

ghostoftraynor

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Re: Billing Question

Postby ghostoftraynor » Fri Jan 26, 2018 7:27 pm

Lol, was just using that as an example; realize now that it was a little extreme. Sometimes I also watch Netflix on an extra screen when doing more brainless activities. I’m sure that doing so causes me to take a lot longer to finish projects, especially if we take into account double checking my work. Write off?


This is actually probably the only type of scenario where I do cut my time. Working late at home with some netflix running--clearly extends the time and really should apply some type of discount. Otherwise, just bill for your time (and let the partners decide if a write-off is appropriate).

Music is a different story, unless person is actually like singing and dancing along.

FlyEaglesFly1701

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Re: Billing Question

Postby FlyEaglesFly1701 » Sat Jan 27, 2018 12:22 am

3rd year associate here. Bill your time, let the partner sort out billing, but be sure to accurately describe what you were doing. A friend of mine got a stern talking to earlier this year at his mid-year review about cutting his hours. The partners knew that he was working based on his presence in the office, but his monthly times were coming up way short. The reason was because he was second guessing every minute of his time and was deducting for inefficiency.

Bill everything and mind your 0.1's because they add up to 1.0's in a hurry.

Additionally, it's ok to have trouble when you're just starting out. 95% of the partners I've worked with want the job to be done right rather than quickly when you're first starting out.

Best of luck to you!

lolwat

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Re: Billing Question

Postby lolwat » Sun Jan 28, 2018 1:50 am

OP was thinking about the matter. Bill.


Not sure if this was serious, but there's a point at which it becomes a little over the top to bill for "thinking about the matter."

I don’t bill for stuff that is truly correcting an error that is my fault or the firm’s fault - for instance, I wouldn’t bill for correcting and re-filing a brief that was bounced by the court for some technical noncompliance with the local rules. That said, while I think reasonable minds can differ on what constitutes appropriate billing judgment, I generally don’t dock my time to account for inefficiency, going down dead ends researching, misunderstanding the task, etc.


I generally agree with the above, but I as an associate will still bill for everything regardless and will just let the partners cut it. I personally worked on that matter even if it's correcting or re-filing the brief; the partners can decide for themselves and the firm whether that's something they should bill to the client. I have seen my time "billed" for those kinds of mistake cut to no-charge or non-billable though so it seems the partners don't bill the client for it, but it's still tracked in the system when counting my hours.

This is actually probably the only type of scenario where I do cut my time. Working late at home with some netflix running--clearly extends the time and really should apply some type of discount. Otherwise, just bill for your time (and let the partners decide if a write-off is appropriate).

Music is a different story, unless person is actually like singing and dancing along.


I cut this kind of time, but I also don't really see it as "cutting" time; I see it as "not billing for time I didn't spend actually working on the matter." In other words, I see it this way: I should bill for whatever time I'm thinking/working on the project, but if my mind is clearly being distracted by something for 15 minutes out of the hour, then I wasn't thinking/working for those 15 minutes and shouldn't be billing for that.



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