Ethics Counsel’s Role in Combating the 'Ostrich' Tendency
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This article focuses on ethics problems related to hourly billing by analyzing the results of a survey of 1000 randomly selected associates in Texas firms who (1) had been licensed for ten or fewer years as of June 1999, and (2) worked in private law firms with more than ten attorneys (the Associate Survey). This article addresses the need for firm managers to clarify how and what their attorneys should bill. The article reports the results from the Associate Survey relating to billing guidance and ethics systems. From the empirical data, the article identifies a need for supervising attorneys to take a proactive role in monitoring billing practices and records. The article also examines the ABA Ethics Opinion 93-379 and associate feelings regarding “double-billing” and “re-cycled work”. The article addresses both the ethical and practical problems created when firms emphasize the quantity of billable hours over the quality of the work performed as illustrated by the Associate Survey. The article concludes by discussing ethics counsel’s role in addressing the billing abuses and the deleterious effects of increased billable hour pressure.
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