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Billable Hour Scandal?

It's widely suspected that the relentless pressure to hit billable hour targets often pushes attorneys to inflate the time they spend on cases and transactions. William Ross, a professor at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama, calls law firm bill padding the "perfect crime" - seldom detected since it is almost impossible for clients to know whether "an attorney really spent three hours doing research instead of five hours." Stephen Gillers, an ethics professor at New York University School of Law, adds "there is a general consensus that billing fraud has increased" as law firms seek to increase profits that will, in turn, help them pay top salaries to attract the best attorneys.

It is in this context that an article appeared on LawFuel (The Law News Network) today telling the story of Matthew Farmer, a former junior partner at the Chicago law offices of Holland & Knight, who had successfully represented a client of the firm in a copyright infringment litigation. Yet, only a few weeks after the victory, Farmer resigned from the firm amid accusations that the firm had inflated the number of hours he had worked on the case when billing the client. Farmer felt that state ethics rules required him to raise his concerns with the firm. Farmer is now working at Cohn Baughman & Martin, a 12-lawyer firm.

Holland & Knight denies any wrongdoing and recently settled an action with the client's insurer (who had paid the client's fees in the litigation).

See the full article on LawFuel here.

The story was also covered on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog here.

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» What is the Perfect Crime? from Psychology of Compliance & Due Diligence Law
According to the WSJ Law Blog, "William Ross, a professor at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Ala., calls it "the perfect crime."... [Read More]


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