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Formal Opinion 93-379 Billing for Professional Fees, Disbursements and Other Expenses

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Classification:Billable Hours
 
Date Published:12/06/1993
 
Title:Formal Opinion 93-379 Billing for Professional Fees, Disbursements and Other Expenses
 
Source:ABA Formal Op. 93-379
 
Summary:

Services and costs for which lawyer may legitimately charge.
The first set of practices involves billing more than one client for the same hours spent. In one illustrative situation, a lawyer finds it possible to schedule court appearances for three clients on the same day. He spends a total of four hours at the courthouse, the amount of time he would have spent on behalf of each client had it not been for the fortuitous circumstance that all three cases were scheduled on the same day. May he bill each of the three clients, who otherwise understand that they will be billed on the basis of time spent, for the four hours he spent on them collectively? Two more examples are given in this first set of practice.
The second set of practices involves billing for expenses and disbursements, and is exemplified by the situation in which a firm contracts for the expert witness services of an economist at an hourly rate of $200. May the firm bill the client for the expert's time at the rate of $250 an hour? Similarly, may the firm add a surcharge to the cost of computer-assisted research if the per-minute total charged by the computers or staffing their operation?

At the onset of the representation the lawyer should make disclosure of the basis for the fee and any other charges to the client. This being a two-fold duty, including not only an explanation at the beginning of engagement of the basis on which fees and other charges will be billed, but also a sufficient explanation in the statement so the client may reasonably be expected to understand what fees and other charges the client is actually being billed.

The comment to the rule states, that "a lawyer should not exploit a fee arrangement based primarily on hourly charges by using wasteful procedures".
The lawyer's conduct should be as such as to promote the client's trust of the lawyer and of the legal profession. This means acting as the advocate for the client to the extent necessary to complete a project thoroughly.

Article covers fees in relation to overhead, disbursments and in-house provision of services.

If the principles outlined in this opinion are followed, the ethical resolution of these issues can be achieved.

 

[Revised: 05-13-2011]