User namePassword 

 Print this Issue Home  •  Archive  •  About Us  •  Contact  •  Advertise  •  Merchandise Subscribe  •  Free Trial
Victoria Mole
2 June, 2008  
Bloody billing day

Melbourne law firm blogger Vicki Mole finds billing a mystery. Her adjustments are based on “ethical guesstimates”: Slow when walking in heels … Fast on the multi-tabbed browsing. Yet some things just don’t add up

imageIt’s THAT time of the month again at the Firm. Billing day: the law firm equivalent of the menstrual cycle.

Angst, tears, bloated prebills, cranky secretaries, a whole lotta red (in the form of partners’ red pens whittling down the bloat) and frustration from clients who want you to get back to fulfilling their needs. Rome wasn’t billed in a day but everything else is.

Articled clerks, having no files of their own, are excluded from the madness, as frenzied solicitors hound partners to sign off advices and badger their secretaries with constant tweaks to the numbers.

The best course of action is to do a Mr March and take refuge from the little women. Somewhere like the library is good so you don’t mess up the secretaries’ printing, a lesson you need only learn once. Sporadic reappearances with chocolate go down quite well.

I well understand that billing is an administrative nightmare. However, the deep-seated torment of every solicitor to maximise billings, far beyond the point of making budget, eludes me.

No one sees what you bill so it is hardly for the glory. Pay differences based on billings don’t kick in until third year and only seem to be the difference between a two or three week skiing holiday – hardly worth an ulcer.

We are meant to set up little timers for each of our matters at the start of every day and click stop and start as we flit from one to the other.

As my day largely consists of receiving hollered instructions from several angles simultaneously, and my tangential (female?) mind is quite OK with working on several matters at once, I tend to skip this step and just make daily ethical guesstimates on how long everything took.

I adjust appropriately. The client shouldn’t have to suffer for my slowness walking to VCAT in heels or my inability to navigate the Supreme Court, so I discount this time.

However, since I am the Jeremy Clarkson of typing and multi-tabbed browsing research, it seems fair that the client should be billed for the time it would a typical ham-fisted Luddite to do the job so not to unduly alter their expectations of the legal profession.

The one exception to this fine-tuning is time spent conferring internally. The only thing that exasperates solicitors more than recording your time in five-hour blocks of “reviewing documents” is when you fail to match their record of time spent conferring with you.

That, and bloody billing day.

Time to make myself scarce.

Adios, Vicki


Reader Comments