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Legal Billing

Open-ended work is done on an hourly basis, plus expenses. The attorney bills the client for each increment of time the attorney spends on the case. Since law does not have standardized diagnoses or procedures, the delineation of these increments may seem arbitrary, they may not appear to match the tasks that must be completed to solve the client's problem. Attorneys bill the client based on the physical task the attorney performs: charges for talking on the telephone, reading documents, traveling, reading cases, and the other physical things attorneys do. It is as if a carpenter charged by how long he pounded nails, sawed boards, climbed ladders, and so forth. If you have hired this carpenter to remodel your house, knowing how long he spends on each carpenter task does not tell you whether the stair is finished and how much work remains on the kitchen.

When a client reads an attorney's bill, he or she may not care how much time the attorney spent doing research, talking on the telephone, and so forth. The client wants to know how the course of the legal work has been furthered by the work he or she is being asked to pay for. Ideally, he would pay the attorney progress payments, in the same way that he would pay the carpenter. This analogy breaks down, however, because attorneys expect clients to pay them for learning their trade, as well as completing the client's work.

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