Overbilled by Your Lawyer? You’re Not Alone

Fraudulent billing by lawyers is a big problem. This young lawyer took steps to stop her firm from misrepresenting her expertise for the purpose of overbilling.

A couple look surprised as they look at a bill together.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As a great deal of the work lawyers do takes place out of sight, this permits bill padding — charging for work that was never done or at an outrageous and unconscionable rate for that which was performed. Estimates of fraudulent billing run from 21% to over 33%, depending on the research methodology. For many lawyers, the “billable hour” is an invitation to theft.

State bar investigators as well as conversations I’ve had with bar association attorney fee arbitrators have told me that with the glut of lawyers in some areas of the country, complaints of bill padding in recent years have increased. They cited law firms’ excessive bills for attorneys with so-called expert ability when, in reality, some were fresh out of law school.

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H. Dennis Beaver, Esq.
Attorney at Law, Author of "You and the Law"

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California's Kern County District Attorney's Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, "You and the Law." Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. "I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift."