Expert Witness Fees: Billing Increments

Expertise Description

Expert witness billing incrementWhen determining how to document the work they have done and the amount of time each task has taken, expert witnesses, like attorneys, have certain options available. In cases where an expert is paid on an hourly basis, there are different methods that are used to calculate and bill for the proper amount. This article discusses some of those methods and addresses the potential advantages and disadvantages that may be involved with particular billing increment approaches.Discussion:The two most common ways of billing are by the tenth of an hour and the quarter of an hour. In the first scenario, one-tenth of an hour would be represented as .1, and the client would be billed for six minutes. In the second situation, the expert would bill in fifteen-minute increments, and so a final bill might reflect something like 3.25 hours, for example. One thing is certain—when expert witnesses bill by the hour, it is absolutely critical that they not only track their time accurately, but that they  document what each increment of time was spent doing so that clients can have a full accounting and understanding of exactly what they are being billed for. Which billing approach is taken can make a substantial difference. See, e.g., Frederick Hertz, “What’s the Best Billing Measurement: 1/10 Hour, 1/4 Hour, or Non-Hourly?”, California Lawyer, Apr. 20, 2016.With respect to billing in one-tenth increments, which is very prevalent, one legal analyst has made an observation. “The upside of the 1/10 hour system is that your time is going to be documented in finer detail, and you can show to your client with great precision how long a particular task has taken. On the other hand, monitoring your time to this level of detail is a serious burden, especially if you are working on multiple matters in a single day.” Id. The precision is something which many clients appreciate, as they wish to know how their money was spent, but it can be difficult for an expert to track their time so meticulously. However, there are tracking programs available, and it is also possible to simply track time by how much is spent in total (for example, 30 minutes), and then simply break it down into one-tenth increments when documenting that time. Experts who operate on an hourly basis are required to track their time, so while tracking every six minutes (or one-tenth of an hour) may seem burdensome, it is simpler to just track the total time and then divide it up using the one-tenth increment system for billing purposes.Another system that some experts use to document the time they spend for a client uses the one-quarter billing increment method. One advantage to the quarter-hour system is that it may be easier for individuals to keep track of, and it may require less detailed documentation, as their work doesn’t need to be listed every six minutes. As noted by one attorney, “Using a quarter-hour measure greatly eases the task of recording accurate time, even when the entry is made several hours after the work was done. On the downside, it can result in some inflated charges, if you apply the quarter-hour measure to every little task.   This can create serious client resentment, for good reason.” Id. There are ways to manage such potential resentment, but they involve individual conscientiousness. For example, because the quarter-hour system is not as precise, it is difficult to know what to do if; for example, twenty-five minutes have elapsed, as the question arises as to whether the expert should bill for one-quarter of an hour or two. One attorney suggests, “For most clients I use the five-minute threshold as to what justifies a billing entry. I also bulk up all the multiple short tasks that take place in a single day, so that three short calls or emails will only result in one quarter-hour being billed. I generally round down whenever the time is less than half of the quarter-hour segments, and I don’t charge to receive emails where no work or reply [is} required.” Id. Billing according to the quarter-hour system may be made easier and less likely to incur client anger if handled in this manner.It is also important to note that sometimes, a particular method of billing may be requested or required. For example, some courts ask that court-appointed experts bill in one-tenth increments. In addition, some clients, such as insurance companies or government agencies, may require the one-tenth billing method. See id.Conclusion:Ideally, a universal system would exist with respect to what billing increment is standard, but it does appear that many members of the legal profession, including attorneys, judges, and others, have adopted the one-tenth approach, which is becoming the more prevalent of the two. This may be partly because it is the best way to accurately bill a client and leaves less guesswork to experts who might opt for the one-quarter system.  They wouldn’t have to calculate how much time to bill clients in cases where the amount of time spent is in between two quarter-length increments. In contrast, the one-tenth system makes it possible be very precise with billing and accounting. In either event, experts should be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each method and should try to stay abreast of the trends in the legal field as to what measurement is most widely-accepted and appropriate.

Expert 327498 - LA

Expertise Description

I have over 25 years experience in Law with expertise in professional responsibility, evidence, advocacy, criminal law, legal ethics, lawyer discipline, judicial discipline, governmental ethics, and federal criminal law. I have additional knowledge in legal malpractice cases, lawyer disqualification matters, and legal fee disputes. I have offered consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony as a law expert witness for more than 15 years.

Expert 520259 - WA

Expertise Description

My background of more than 40 years includes working in the field of Law and Legal practice with a particular expertise in Ethics, Professional Responsibility, and Attorney Fees, Consulting, Advisory Opinions, Fee Issues and Disputes, Litigation Services, Lawyer Discipline, Judicial Ethics, Judicial Discipline, Professional Liability, and Public Officials Training. I have also spent over 15 years as a Washington Attorney Expert Witness.

Expert 426934 - NJ NY

Expertise Description

I have over 35 years experience as a practicing attorney and have expertise in the area of legal malpractice. Half of my practice is devoted to complex litigation and half to handling appeals. My legal malpractice work came as an offshoot of my appellate practice, as many potential appellate cases turn out to involve legal malpractice. My expertise includes breach of contract actions, warranty claims and insurance disputes, business litigation, complex high asset/income divorce proceedings, and consumer class actions. I also offer knowledge advice regarding disputes over fees charged by attorneys, experts, or forensic accountants. I have prior expert witness experience, including deposition testimony.

Expert 517554 - CA(S)

Expertise Description

I have more than 35 years of experience in Family Law, which is the full focus of my practice. I have handled child custody cases, as well as child and/or spousal support, divorce, annulments, legal separation, paternity, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, restraining orders, and various community property issues. I also lecture on topics within my field for my local County Bar. I am very familiar with the standard of care for family law attorneys.

Expert 13582 - CA(N)

Expertise Description

I have more than 20 years experience as a litigator, consultant, expert, and legal fee arbitrator in numerous matters involving attorney fee disputes, legal ethics, ethics of tripartite relationships, and staff counsel issues. My expertise includes the reasonableness of attorneys’ fees, costs, and disbursements. I have over 15 years expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.

Expert 4632 - CA(S)

Expertise Description

I have over 20 years experience in litigation specializing in attorney competence and attorney compensation. My experience includes managing a six-attorney civil litigation law firm. I have experience with matters regarding attorney discipline, attorney fees, attorney malpractice, attorney standard of care issues, and attorney fee disputes. I have handled matters ranging from personal to real estate litigation to class actions. I have more than 5 years expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.

Expert 27888 - CA(S)

Expertise Description

I have over 40 years experience as a trial attorney specializing in legal malpractice, as well as real estate. My expertise includes: attorney malpractice arising out of both litigation and transactions, with a focus on the applicable community standard of care issues; construction defects; probate and trust; real estate broker agency non disclosure issues; negligence and misrepresentation claims; breach of lease agreements; limited partnership disputes; and creditor's rights suits including obtaining writs of attachment, writs of execution, temporary restraining orders, and preliminary injunctions. I have additional expertise on attorney fee disputes; ethics in violation of the California Rules of Professional Conduct; providing expert opinions on standard of care and breach of fiduciary duty claims; real estate disputes; lease agreements; standard of care for real estate brokers; non-disclosures in real estate sales; trust litigation; and will contests. I have more than 10 years expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.

Expert 134947 - TX

Expertise Description

I have over 40 years experience as an insurance lawyer and former claims manager for a large multiline insurer. My expertise includes: analysis of coverage issues, attorney fees, bad faith claims, insurance code, deceptive trade practices, agency errors and omissions (E&O), claim file audits, insurance disputes, analysis of attorney fees, casualty / property claims, risk analysis, worker’s compensation, and complex arbitration / mediation. I have more than 10 years expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.

Expert 160188 - AZ CA(N) CA(S) NV

Expertise Description

I have more than 35 years experience in the field of Probate and Trust Administration with expertise in Trusts and Estates. I have experience with litigated contests, attorney standard of care issues, removal petitions, accountings, and other probate and trust related contested matters. I have additional experience with fee disputes, attorney fees, malpractice, standard of car issues for fiduciaries, attorney malpractice, attorney competence, estate tax disputes, and state bar disputes. I have over 30 years expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.

Expert 52713 - CA(S)

Expertise Description

I have more than 35 years experience as a practicing attorney in the field of Business Litigation. I have experience handling contractual disputes and contractual interpretation. My expertise includes partnership agreements, lease agreements, commercial lease negotiations, software license agreements, literary and publishing agreements, intellectual property, and trademark and copyright infringement matters. My additional experience consists of insurance coverage involving insurance policies of every nature; bad faith, fee dispute, legal malpractice matters, brokerage malpractice, professional fee review and analysis, legal representation and charges associated therewith. I have 25 years expert witness experience with consultations, deposition, and courtroom testimony.

Expert 6272 - CA(N) CA(S)

Expertise Description

Consulting expert with more than 20 years experience in the fields of private arbitration and mediation. Primary practice areas encompass fee disputes between attorneys, legal malpractice, medical malpractice, insurance bad faith, contract and business litigation / torts, and civil litigation of all types. Additional experience includes preparation of high value cases, such as wrongful termination, arbitrator litigation, serious personal injury and trauma, complex civil litigation, and public entity liability litigation. Prior expert witness experience.