NSW Solicitor - Itemised Bill for Legal Services?

Discussion in 'Other/General Law Forum' started by zenihama, 19 December 2018.

  1. zenihama

    zenihama Active Member

    Joined:
    19 December 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    Why does it take time for a solicitor to provide an itemised account?

    Along with a $20K+ bill for various legal services I received a "Notification of Client's Rights" document which said I could request an itemised bill within 30 days. I did so, but was told that it would be several weeks before there was time “to prepare it”.

    While I acknowledge that it is coming up to Christmas, I also don't understand what would need to be "prepared". Surely all the info is logged into some sort of accounting software already, and if not, then how did they come up with the total on the bill I received?
     
  2. Scruff

    Scruff Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    25 July 2018
    Messages:
    755
    Likes Received:
    119
    In NSW they have 21 days to provide the itemised bill from the day you asked for it. (s332A NSW Legal Profession Act.)
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  3. Rob Legat - SBPL

    LawTap Verified

    Joined:
    16 February 2017
    Messages:
    1,987
    Likes Received:
    422
    There could be a few reasons why it will take time:
    1. If the fee agreement was for a set sum, they now need to go through and break it all down. I know if I'm doing a set fee agreed matter, I'm not logging everything I do item by item.
    2. They could be getting it independently checked, internally or externally.
    3. They're being pedantic and are checking and re-checking everything (in addition, or independently of, 3).
    4. NSW may have a specific format for their itemised bills which is only used when requested because it's not particularly user friendly (highly hypothetical... I have no basis for this).
    5. Because they can. They don't get to charge for this 'work' so they're not likely to prioritise it.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  4. zenihama

    zenihama Active Member

    Joined:
    19 December 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0

    Thank you for this answer, Rob

    #1 would certainly make sense but there was no agreed set sum in this case.

    As a tech person myself I guess I was assuming that as the work progressed each item would be logged into some kind of program or at least a spreadsheet in order to arrive at the total. If this was the case it would simply be a matter of pressing a button and choosing something like "Summary Report" or "Detail Report" - to conform to whatever format is needed. I've written code many times to produce similar kinds of data reporting results for various clients (no lawyers though) and it's hardly rocket science. However, perhaps I'm assuming too much and the solicitors are noting down their records in code onto parchment scrolls using feather quills and then it all gets added up and interpreted by a mystical abacus operator who only comes in once a month. :confused:

    I guess your #5 is probably on the money (or not on the money ;)).

    It seems sloppy at best and dishonest at worst.
    If the figure given in my bill was just pulled out of the air I imagine that it will take time to reverse engineer it into a list of things that will add up to match that figure.
     
  5. zenihama

    zenihama Active Member

    Joined:
    19 December 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    I do understand that they have that time; my question is why do they need any time at all if the figure provided in the bill is the total of an actual record of work done for the client - why can't the office junior just print out the list? What are they hiding?
     
  6. Rob Legat - SBPL

    LawTap Verified

    Joined:
    16 February 2017
    Messages:
    1,987
    Likes Received:
    422
    I obviously can't speak for the legal fraternity as a whole, but in my instance my bills are done one of two ways:

    1. It's an agreed fee, and my bill will say something along the lines of: "Professional costs in accordance with our letter of engagement dated X" or "Costs Agreement dated Y"; or
    2. If it's time costed you'll get a line by line of the items making up the bill.

    My legal software is the same one that prepares my invoices, so you get what's been entered. In other words, if I've done it in the first place then that's what will be on the account. If it's not on the account, then it hasn't been done.

    Whether that applies in your case is anyone's guess at the moment.

    It's possible they may be filling in some 'blanks'. The NSW Costs Guide (available here: https://www.lawsociety.com.au/sites/default/files/2018-07/COSTS_CH03_18July.pdf ) states the contents of an itemised bill should include:

    - date of the attendance
    - description of the task/s undertaken during the attendance
    - the names of the practitioners who undertook the attendance
    - the duration of the attendance
    - the amount charged for the attendance

    'Attendance' would cover a wide range of things - meetings, phone calls, correspondence, document drafting and the like.

    If they anticipate the bill going off to a costs assessor, they could be making sure there is more information in each item.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
  7. zenihama

    zenihama Active Member

    Joined:
    19 December 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0


    Hi Rob,

    The method you describe for your own billing makes sense and seems quite transparent but as you say you can't speak for the legal fraternity as a whole.
    My costs agreement included the following statement:

    Professional Fees
    We will charge you professional fees for the work we do based on hourly rates.
    You will be proportionately charged for work involving shorter periods less
    than an hour. Our charges are structured in 6-minute units. For example, the
    time charged for an attendance of up to 6 minutes will be 1 unit and the time
    charged for an attendance between 6 and 12 minutes will be 2 units.


    Accordingly I expected the bill to include a list of items and the number of units charged. Instead, I received this:
    [​IMG]
    (Here's the link in case the pic I tried to embed there doesn't come up)
    PicsArt_12-20-03.32.15.jpg

    Perhaps the amount is spot on - but the fact that it was not itemised, AND that it will apparently take time to do so, makes me suspicious that it's a figure just pulled out of the air.
    Although I've removed identifying info from the bill it can be seen that I started and then discontinued a proceeding.
    Part of the reason I chose to discontinue is that after a conference with the barrister (during which I also felt disrespected and treated like an idiot), I was no longer satisfied that I had a case worth pursuing.
    This bill does nothing to stop me from continuing to feel that I have been disrespected and treated like an idiot.
     
  8. Rob Legat - SBPL

    LawTap Verified

    Joined:
    16 February 2017
    Messages:
    1,987
    Likes Received:
    422
    Okay, from the picture my guess is that they did not record each item as they went along but rather billed it at the end by looking back over what they did. That's a pretty 'old school' method that was usual back in pre-computerised days. It doesn't mean it's wrong - just that someone has tabulated at the end without typing it all out. To them itemise would mean that someone has to pick apart the file and enter each item individually - and that takes time.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
    zenihama likes this.
  9. zenihama

    zenihama Active Member

    Joined:
    19 December 2018
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    0
    OK, thanks again for that explanation, I really appreciate it.

    While it does make some sense, it beggars belief that this would be a method considered efficient and appropriate in 2018.

    Also, while this is not a 'big' law firm I'm dealing with, it's not small either - several partners and enough staff to occupy the whole floor of a building.

    Perhaps in lieu of payment I should offer my services to assist them in updating their systems. I'll then generate a vaguely worded invoice for the same amount as their bill to me.
     
  10. Rod

    Rod Lawyer
    LawTap Verified

    Joined:
    27 May 2014
    Messages:
    6,266
    Likes Received:
    876
    Keep in mind if there is a 'reserve rights' clause on the lump sum bill, the lawyer can charge more in the itemised bill.
     
    Stop hovering to collapse... Click to collapse... Hover to expand... Click to expand...
Loading...

Share This Page

Loading...
gt;