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Bill Padding, Revisited

Unlike many traditions in the legal profession, it seems that bill padding never goes out of style.  Two years ago, allegations of bill padding by a junior partner at Holland and Knight drew national coverage, as well as strong criticism about the practice from legal ethics experts.  Now, the Edinburgh Evening News is reporting that an internal memo leaked from the depths of mega-global law firm Clifford Chance "has junior lawyers complaining that they are obliged to 'pad' their clients' bills."   Among other things, the memo describes that "junior lawyers have to invent problems so they can bill 2420 hours a year and that 'under-houred' senior lawyers are given extra work to bulk up their hours."  Reportedly, Clifford Chance leaders will convene an emergency meeting to make clear that the firm does not have a policy of encouraging bill padding. 

I don't know whether Clifford Chance lawyers are really encouraged to pad their bills or not, or whether the memo exaggerated the policy.  (Though as an aside, I note that Rees Morrison suspects that most firms with mandatory billing requirements inevitably engage in some type of bill padding.)  Instead, I wonder whether those firms that do pad their hours can continue to do so in a declining economy, where clients are scrutinizing their legal costs more closely.  At the end of the day, perhaps it's economics, rather than legal ethics, will drive the practice of bill padding into extinction.

Update (9/16/08) -- Yes, I've realized that the story from the Edinburgh News is outdated. I went back again, and read through the entire page, down to the bottom and saw the date stamp of 2002 way at the bottom -- even though it had come up in my news aggregator as a current story.  Thank you for the comments.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 15, 2008 at 07:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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