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For A Few Dollars More: The Perplexing Problem of Unethical Billing Practices by Lawyers

In 1 on February 5, 2009 at 9:55 am
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DOUGLAS R. RICHMOND

Introduction
 
In August 2006, Matthew Farmer, once a promising young partner in the Chicago office of Holland & Knight LLP, was featured in a Wall Street Journal
article on his firm’s billing practices. Farmer accused a senior partner in his firm of billing fraud in connection with the firm’s defense of a case in a
Minnesota federal court.  In a letter to a judge in related state court proceedings, Farmer detailed the senior partner’s apparent practice of billing for no fewer than 450 “phantom hours” that the firm’s lawyers never worked.  To accomplish this, Farmer alleged, the senior partner either inflated other lawyers’ recorded time or created fictitious time entries from whole cloth.  As a result, the firm collected more than $100,000 in fees to which it was not entitled.  Holland & Knight denied all of Farmer’s allegations of wrongdoing, asserted that the amounts it billed were reasonable and appropriate, and took no action against the senior partner.  The firm did, however, reach a confidential settlement with the insurer that funded the defense of the Minnesota case (which alleged that the firm had committed billing fraud).
As Farmer’s story illustrates, the once forbidden subject of unethical billing practices by lawyers is now openly discussed. Reported cases in which lawyers are professionally disciplined or criminally prosecuted for billing abuses are disturbingly routine.  Press accounts of lawyers’ alleged billing and expense fraud are similarly common.

Posted via email from HKLaw Investigation

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