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Overbilling in the News

Adjusters and defense attorneys should, and often enough do, work together to resist the frivolous or inflated claims that clog up and discredit California’s workers’ compensation system.  It’s a relationship that requires trust, hard work, and cooperation from both sides.  When the claim is made that any defense attorney is inflating or “padding” his or her bill, the entire defense community suffers.

In accordance with your humble blogger’s reluctance to name names, I will decline to point out the defense attorney making the accusation or the defense firm being accused – but the allegation has been made by a former attorney-employee of a defense firm that said firm required 3000 hours to be billed annually per attorney.  Furthermore, this accuser alleges that he was required to over-bill his clients to reach that goal, and in failing to do so was released from service.  The American Bar Association has an article on this story here.

The employer-defense firm has denied the allegations and, understandably, is reluctant to reveal the intricacies of its billing and employment practices.

Your wise and understanding blogger has limits to his knowledge – only the plaintiff-employee and defendant-employer know the truth, if any, behind these allegations.  But as a member of the defense community, I feel at least some comment is necessary.

A rabbi in Davis, CA, once told me that when he came home from school one day, his father slapped him and said that people in the community had seen him smoking.  He protested, saying that it wasn’t true, at which point his father slapped him again saying “it’s bad enough people are saying it, you want it to be true as well?”

My experience as a defense attorney has shown me the meaning of loyalty to the client.  The defense community, at least the attorneys I have interacted with, are dedicated to eradicating the appearance of impropriety, let alone the impropriety itself.  I am sure that there are countless hours there that have gone unbilled precisely because of a fear of appearing to “pad” the bill.

If these allegations are true, and I, again, most certainly hope they are not, then the practices of that firm are not the norm.

Categories: News
  1. Fair Practice
    December 27, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Greg, undoubtedly what has been accused does occur in some firms, if not as a direct policy but the subtle pressures of meeting billing thresholds. I do not believe it is in anyway a widespread problem. I would like to echo your comment at the end. As a litigation specialist working for carriers for going on 30 years, I can attest to thousands of hours over those years of unbilled time and effort afforded me by my defense counsel advocates.

    • December 27, 2011 at 9:10 am

      Fair Practice – thanks for the comment. Personally, I can’t imagine working with a client and advising them while secretly overbilling/stealing from them. I guess we’ll just have to see what comes out from this case and if there is any truth to these allegations.

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