Some of you have written to me asking for ideas on how to bill and how to word your billing entries. I will say this; every attorney and/or law firm is different. So please keep in mind that the billing descriptions on this blog may not be acceptable billing descriptions at your particular law firm. I suggest that you check with your paralegal manager, the attorney or the partner on the file to make sure the billing entry is in accordance with the retainer the client signed and with your firm’s policy. With that in mind, let us begin.
As I stated in a previous post, a billing entry is like a story. I am sure you remember your professors saying that one of the most of important things when writing anything is to keep in mind who your audience is. If you keep this in the back of your mind as you write your billing entry you will be able to tailor it to the person who will be reading it. The other thing that I keep “filed away” in the back of my mind is that my billing entry is probably the first time the client is going to see how much work is actually involved in getting the case “worked up.”
Clients are not always aware of how many steps are involved in getting their cases settled or even getting their cases to go to court. So, again, as I mentioned in an earlier post remember to make your billing entry as descriptive as you can by answering the following questions: who, what and why.
Most clients are ok with paying your fees as long as they see that there is a reason for you to charge them as much as you’re charging.
SAMPLE BILLING ENTRIES
A meeting with an attorney regarding an expert my billing entry would be something like this:
- Conference with attorney’s name regarding expert’s name, type of expertise to assist with deposition preparation/response to discovery.
A meeting is almost always stated as a conference. It just sounds better, in my opinion. But again, that may not be the case at your law firm.
When reviewing medical records and preparing the package to be sent to our expert.
- Review and analyze medical records to assist in preparation of expert witness. If this was a particularly voluminous medical file, I sometimes list the medical records individually.
As a personal injury paralegal on the defense side you will have to request records from the physicians. I use these to compare to the ones received with the adversary’s responses to discovery or answers to interrogatories. I always request medical records at the same time I review plaintiffs’ discovery responses. Therefore, my billing entry would look something like this:
- Review and analyze plaintiff’s answers to interrogatories/document production in preparation for supplemental discovery demands.
Telephone conversations should also always be very specific. Always be specific about whom you spoke with and why you had the conversation.
- Telephone conversation with name of the party regarding issue to assist with why you had the conversation.
- Prepare correspondence to party you’re writing to regarding why you’re writing.
- Correspondence to plaintiff’s attorney regarding outstanding answers to discovery.
- Correspondence to medical expert, name of the expert and specialty regarding additional information received from where you obtained the information to assist with preparation of expert report.
Basically, I look at my billing entries as a chronology of what I am doing on each file. I have at times looked at my billing entries to remind me if I completed a task on a file.
My last bit of advice to all new paralegals is to not be afraid of billing for all the work you do on a file because the bill may be “cut.” Billing adjustments happen in law firms and it is not a reflection on you or your work.
I hope this helps. If I can be of further help please write me a comment and we can work it out together.
Thank you for all your comments and I look forward to hearing from you all.