Am I Really Worth $230 An Hour?

A recent study conducted by a law school ethics professor reported that most lawyers “pad” or increase the time they bill their client (click here for article). Padding, as the practice is known, can involve either doing unnecessary or trivial work and charging the client for it or it can involve bumping up the actual amount of time that they decide to charge their client. Personally, I believe that so long as there are such high billing expectations imposed on associates at law firms and the client chooses to be charged by the hours the lawyers spent working rather than by the project, padding in the law firm context is inevitable.

Believe it or not, my time is currently worth $230 an hour to a client. Compared to most associates in New York City, my time is actually quite a bargain for a corporate client. The problem with the system is that I am asked to keep track of my time myself. As such, there are bound to be mistakes throughout a normal, hectic day. Rare is the occasion that I sit down and work on one matter for eight hours. Instead, I am busy running around to my partners’ offices, speaking on the phone, and composing/responding to emails throughout the day. I can’t possibly keep exact track of the time I spend on a client’s behalf when my day goes something like this: twenty minutes here, then forty minutes there, and then 1.5 hours here again, not to mention the three hours I spent after lunch putting out the fire that arose with such and such matter (including being interrupted by phone calls with other lawyers on unrelated matters).

What I can do, however, is try to be as fair and honest as I can. In doing so, I am sure I have rounded up some of my billed time. Yet, to be honest, I am confident that there has also been some time that has not been accounted for. All in all, I do not feel that I “pad” my time, but believe that the time my firm bills the client for is fair. But I know that I am not perfect, and consequently, neither are my billing practices.     

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