Clients expect the lawyers they hire to behave ethically and represent them with their client’s best interests at heart. When these standards are compromised – especially in the sensitive area of billable hours – the consequences can be disastrous, leading to legal malpractice claims from the client.
Billable hours represent the cornerstone of an attorney’s income in many law firms. They are the hours an attorney spends working on a particular client’s case, for which the client is then charged. While most lawyers adhere to the highest professional standards in accounting for their time, some don’t. Misrepresentation or mishandling of billable hours can lead to clients feeling deceived and exploited, breeding grounds for a potential legal malpractice lawsuit.
Understanding billable hour discrepancies
A lawsuit alleging legal malpractice based on billable hours generally revolves around the idea that an attorney has overbilled for services not rendered, inaccurately recorded their time or billed for tasks that aren’t reasonably related to the client’s case. This unethical practice violates the attorney-client agreement and jeopardizes the trust upon which the relationship is built.
In such situations, clients may feel trapped and unsure of the steps to take or the rights they possess. As the first step, they should closely review their billing statements for inconsistencies or discrepancies, such as hours billed for work seemingly unrelated to their case or possible double billing.
Pursuing a legal malpractice claim
Initiating a lawsuit for legal malpractice is a complex undertaking. You must demonstrate that your attorney’s conduct fell below the standard of care expected from a reasonable attorney under similar circumstances. Specifically, you must show that the billable hours were unjustifiably inflated and that this misconduct caused financial harm.
As you can imagine, this is rather difficult, so you should seek legal guidance from an attorney who is uniquely familiar with these matters. They can draw from their knowledge of these situations to find ways to show the ethical missteps taken with the billing. They also need to be able to tie the financial harm you suffered to the attorney’s conduct for your lawsuit to be successful.