Legal malpractice is rare, but it does happen. Just as there are irresponsible professionals in every field, there can be negligent and unethical lawyers who attempt to take advantage of their clients.
One of the most common forms of legal malpractice involves attorneys overcharging their clients. In this two-part series on our blog, we will go over some of the major ways that some lawyers may try to overcharge the people they have been hired to represent.
1. Double-billing clients
Double billing is the act of charging an hourly fee to two or more parties for the same hour of work. When lawyers double-bill it means that they charge the same hour of work to two or more clients. This is not only unethical but illegal. Double-billing is widely condemned the majority of attorneys as well as the American Bar Association, but some lawyers still try to get away with it.
2. Padding their hours
Attorneys may attempt to increase their pay by padding their billable hours. If they spend forty-five minutes working, perhaps they’ll call it an hour. If they work two hours, they may stretch the number to three. In one notorious case of padding hours, a lawyer in West Virginia attempted to bill 26 hours… in a 24-hour day. Padding hours is a form of fraud and can incur serious consequences.
3. Overcharging for certain tasks
Sure, you can expect to pay reasonable fees for a skilled attorney’s counsel. But how about for secretarial work? Or custodial work? Another way that your attorney may be ripping you off is by charging excessive rates for menial tasks.
4. Charging for overhead expenses
Some clients have been shocked to learn that their bills included charges for their lawyers’ overhead expenses. One client had been charged for his lawyers’ air conditioning and taxi rides. Your attorney should charge you a fair rate for the work that they do, not for their own overhead costs.
We will conclude the next post in this series with more common ways that unethical attorneys try to bilk their clients.