For those who have no background in the legal or accounting department, it’s hard to estimate the right fee you should pay for your lawyer. While all law firms submit to the same payment system, the billing will depend on how complicated the case is and how prestigious the lawyer and the firm are. Most of the time, it’s hard to determine whether you’re actually paying for the right amount or if they’re charging you too much already.
According to the California State Bar, most lawyers inflate their bills up to 10% to 30%. This fraud usually goes unnoticed, especially since clients can’t get any evidence to prove the overbilling. Moreover, the desperate ones are only too willing to ask help from lawyers and pay any amount of money in order to acquit themselves of any crime. This issue is still under investigation, and so far no answer has come up.
To help raise awareness, here are some of the tricks most lawyers pull off to cheat their clients.
About two-thirds of lawyers admit that they have tried bill padding. Padding hours is when a lawyer announces that he has worked for two hours when he actually only worked for one hour. In other words, he gets paid for doing nothing or performing unnecessary work. This happens when you opt to pay a time-based billing.
What lawyers usually do is that they behind until all the other lawyers go home, then escape from the office soon after. Since no one is there to claim that he is or he is not working in the night, he can simply declare that he is and no one would argue.
- Double billing
Double billing is when a lawyer bills for two clients for the same hour’s work. In the Samford University’s Cumberland Law School 2007 survey, more a third of American lawyers admit that they sometimes double bill their clients. What’s more alarming is that only 51.8% of attorneys believe that the act is unethical.
The practice is already condemned by the American Bar Association, but some lawyers still continue to do so. It seems ironic that they use their knowledge of the law to cheat clients and the system.
- Incorrect expense reports
Another way a lawyer can increase the billing is through manipulating their expense reports. They can say that they bought a first-class airplane ticket to meet you when they actually just bought economy. Hotels, meals, and other travel expenses can easily be tweaked, so it’s hard to notice if you’re already being cheated. Make sure that you ask for receipts in order to avoid this.
If you’re not careful, you might be paying for your lawyer’s overhead expenses, too. There are instances when attorneys put their taxi rides, air conditioning fee, plane tickets, etc. to the billing in the hopes that the client won’t notice. After all, how can one notice a few hundreds of bucks added to a million dollar fee?
The stated tricks are considered illegal and unethical; however, that does not stop some lawyers to still practice them. If you want to contact a legal professional with good work ethics, then you have to be vigilant and only go to reliable law firms.