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I hate to break the bad news to y’all, but the American legal system does not work in our favor……at least not for the majority us…….
And nowadays, because lying and the skewing of facts are so prevalent in our society (and what attorneys are trained to do), laws have become so technical and complicated that 1) You cannot defend your own case, an attorney must be retained and 2) because of the technical detail, trying to prove anything becomes very difficult…..because some technicality is probably attached to the proof that makes almost all proof inadmissible as evidence.
And, if you happen to be going up against another person who happens to have money to buy a good attorney to defend themselves….you might as well save yourself the time and energy and chuck the whole thing up as “shit happens”
You may say to me that there are many free legal centers and pro bono lawyers……
Yes, if your case is open and shut…..no one is going to take time out of their busy schedule to look through your paperwork that is most likely (according to their perspective) going to be a lot of bull…..oney and amount to nothing in the end.
Why do think movies like “Erin Brockovich” and “A Civil Action” become movies…..because it is very heroic to devote yourself against all odds to what you believe to be the call of justice despite the fact that it may seem that there are oodles of hurdles stacked against your success.
And what about divorce?
If you have ever been through a nasty divorce with attorneys involved, I would be willing to bet on the fact that those attorneys milked you and your soon to be ex-spouse for as much as they could before the divorce was able to finalized through the “justice” system…….
Has anyone ever looked at an invoice from an attorney?
I found this list on a website advertising legal services…(Law Office of Sterwart Andrew Sutton, LLC)
There are at least 10 ways for an attorney to overcharge a client who is paying an hourly rate for legal services.
- Phantom Billing
“Phantom billing” occurs when an attorney invoices a client for work that was never performed. An audit of the client’s file is necessary to detect phantom billing.
- Unnecessary Work
An attorney should not be compensated for performing work that was not reasonably necessary. An audit of the client’s file is necessary to determine whether the legal services were reasonably necessary.
- Block Billing
“Block billing” is when an attorney provides no description or an inadequate description of the work performed. For example, the attorney might have an entry on the invoice that states “case work” or “reviewed email”. Such billing entries are insufficient, because they do not inform the client of either the nature of the legal services performed, the source and nature of the communication, nor why the work was reasonably necessary. When an attorney block bills, the attorney may face difficulties in seeking to recover legal fees based on either contract or quantum meruit. A proper invoice from an attorney should be in a format that is clear and should be reasonably particular regarding the nature and the necessity of the legal services performed. Diamond Point v. Wells Fargo 400 Md. 718, 760 (2007) (“It goes without saying that attorneys who bill on a time basis should make their billings as detailed as reasonably possible, so that the client, and any other person who might be called upon to pay the bill, will know with some precision what services have been performed”).
- Lack of Contemporaneous Time Records
It is the responsibility of the attorney to maintain accurate billing records. This is accomplished by making contemporaneous billing entries. When a client does not receive a monthly bill, it may mean that the attorney is not maintaining contemporaneous time records.Without contemporaneous time records, an attorney will often resort to reconstructing the time records or backdating bills. The inherent inaccuracies of such reconstructed invoices should be resolved against the attorney.
- Large Billing Increments
Most attorneys bill in 0.1 hour (6 minutes) increments. When an attorney bills in 0.2 (12 minutes) or 0.25 hour (15 minute) increments, the amount billed does not reflect the actual work performed by the attorney. Such inflated bills are unacceptable and should be discounted.
- Duplication of Effort
Duplication of effort is not compensable. For example, when a firm has 2 attorneys attend a court hearing, the client should be billed only for the appearance of the senior attorney.
- Excessive Conferencing
At large law firms, junior attorneys report to senior attorneys. Unfortunately, this means that both attorneys bill the client for their meetings. While occasion conferences are often necessary, constant meetings are usually unproductive and wasteful.
- Billing Rate Increases
A law firm may not unilaterally increase its billing rate. Nevertheless, many firms increase their hourly on an annual basis without their clients’ permission.
- Change in Personnel
A client should not be charged for a new staff member or an newly assigned attorney to review the client’s file to get up to speed, because such effort does not advance the client’s cause. When the law firm assigns new staff, the additional costs associated with the change in personnel should be charged to overhead, not to the client.
- Excessive Supervising and Training
Law firms are always training new staff and attorneys. The law firm should reduce its hourly rate for the on-the-job training of its staff.
I worked at a patent-trademark law firm for a very brief period (two weeks) and I will never forget about the time that the whole floor got to order lunch on the firm and bill it to the client. Very enlightening experience…….
Is this the way the American “fair and balanced” legal system is supposed to work…….that only the wealthy are privy to fair and balanced justice?
If anyone has any good experiences with the legal system…..that didn’t involve paying thousands and thousands of dollars for justice to be served…….I would love to hear from you!
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