When you appear at a hearing for a client, or meet with a witness, when do you record your time? The answer ought to be: as soon as you return to the office. Unfortunately, it appears that many lawyers are waiting to the end of the case, then looking back through the file to see what was done and entering some amount for what the lawyer believes he would have spent doing the task or, worse, determining what the lawyer believes ought to be the value of the service and calculating the time accordingly.
This is bad practice for a number of reasons. First, the ethical rules require “prompt” services, which would include your billing practices; second, you have no support if your fees are challenged; finally, it can result in excessive billing. We have seen many instances of attorneys billing in excess of twenty-four hours for one day, only to find that the attorney has no idea that that much was billed for the day. An attorney must be able to account on a daily basis for the amount of time spent on cases. The inability to do so places the attorney in the position of having to argue that the work was done, but done on different days. This is unpersuasive and renders all such billing suspect.
At the end of (at least) the week, a lawyer should be able to see a record of how much time he or she has billed on each day of that week! Please protect yourself and your work by recording your time as soon as possible after performing the work.