Double Dipping – Billings

Are lawyers more or less ethical than taxi companies? The rules of professional conduct in most States require that only one client be billed at one time. In other words, if your agreement with client A says that you will bill them for the time spent on their matter, and you have a similar agreement with client B, then you can bill only one client for each minute of time. This gets played out a lot when traveling or sitting in a court house waiting for your matter to be called. While you could do work for Client B while traveling to a destination for Client A, you can bill only one client for that time. Same is true in the court house. You can bill Client A for the wait time, but if you do work for client B, you have to choose between the two; you can’t bill both for the same time. I’m in New York now and had to engage a taxi to go from the airport to my son’s home. I didn’t realize that the general rule in this community is that the taxi’s are shared. When I engaged the taxi, I was told the fee was $30; another person also engaged a taxi and was told that the fee for him ws $20. I didn’t realize at first that we were both going to the same car. As we were driving, I started to think about the fact that we were being double billed. The taxi company was getting $50 when, if only I were the passenger, it would get $30. There seems to be something amiss here. Are lawyers ahead or behind the business curve? Are we more or less ethical than taxi companies? The answer to the question turns on the agreement between the taxi company and its passengers on the one hand and the agreement between the lawyer and client on the other. In the first case, taxi companies charge a fixed fee, not one based on time. In the latter case, our agreements generally are based on time, rather than a fixed fee or a value-based formula. Thus, each is ethical in its approach. And the real question is: Why are lawyers ignoring the business model adopted by almost all, if not all, other professions and trades? They determine a fee or formula that is not based on when they become more efficient. The more efficient lawyers become, the harder they have to work to earn the same money as before. In order to change this reality, lawyers must look to alternative fee billings.


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