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   Author  Topic: Billing Ethics Question  (Read 1816 times)
Ryan Johnson
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Billing Ethics Question
« on: Apr 12th, 2007, 3:20pm »
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I recently came across the following ethical rule concerning patent assistants who bill their time:
 
The only legitimate way to bill for more time than you actually spent on a task is if your firm allows you to bill the same amount of time for the same task. For example, if you work in intellectual property law, you might bill the same amount of time to draft a trademark application, regardless of how long it actually takes you. There may be some times when this task takes you less time than the standard time billed, allowing you to bill that day for more hours than you spent in the office. Other times, you will be behind because the task took longer than the standard time billed. This is only fair if you bill every client the same amount of time (or the same fee).
 
Is anyone aware of similar ethical statements for patent attorneys?
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realestateattorney
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Re: Billing Ethics Question
« Reply #1 on: Apr 14th, 2007, 9:29am »
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this is a sensitive topic.  there is a concept of "value based billing" to which the statement  is referring to.
 
generally, be careful where you end up parking your hat.  
 
a friend of mine recently worked in a shop that docks your pay.  it is a percentage based shop in new york that takes time out of your paycheck for various reasons (read: ego).  
 
they never mentioned this when they hired my friend.  they just talked about how they wrote high quality patents and people can make manhattan salaries at the firm.  
 
but no one does because the reviewer is too busy playing with his cell phone to review work.  one partner does not even show up at the firm.
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Wiscagent
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Re: Billing Ethics Question
« Reply #2 on: Apr 14th, 2007, 10:10am »
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"The only legitimate way to bill for more time than you actually spent on a task ..."
 
I stopped reading right there.  The is NO legitimate way to bill for more time than you actually spent on a task.
 
It is also true that there is no requirement to agree to a bill on an hourly basis.  Many legal and quasi-legal services are billed on other bases other than hours worked.  Examples:
 - real estate agent - bills on a basis of a percentage of the sales price
 - personal injury attorney - agrees to be paid a percentage of $ recovered on a contingency basis
 - patent attorney - agrees to a fixed payment for a service
 
But if you agreed to be paid $****/hour and you worked for 10 hours, you can bill for no more than 10 X $****.
« Last Edit: Apr 14th, 2007, 7:59pm by Wiscagent » IP Logged

Richard Tanzer
Patent Agent
patentsusa
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Re: Billing Ethics Question
« Reply #3 on: Apr 14th, 2007, 10:50am »
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It may depend a bit on your particular state's ethics rules, but in general, I would say it mostly depends on what agreement you had with your client.  You could agree to bill on a fixed fee basis or on a time basis.  Many high volume patent clients demand fixed fee arrangements; these are usually not to the advantage of the attorney.  Doing trademark applications on a fixed fee basis can be advantageous to the attorney, and many clients like the idea of knowing in advance what it will cost.  Having a representation agreement is a good idea for a lot of reasons, just ask your malpractice insurance company.
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Deepak Malhotra, JD, BSEE
Registered Patent Attorney
Malhotra Law Firm
www.patentsusa.com
Wiscagent
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Re: Billing Ethics Question
« Reply #4 on: Apr 14th, 2007, 8:08pm »
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“The only legitimate way to bill for more time than you actually spent on a task ...”
 
“It may depend a bit on your particular state's ethics rules ...”
 
WHAT???  It may depend???  Is fraud okay in some states but not in others?
 
From the client’s perspective it makes no difference whatsoever how the law firm cooks its books or how the firm tries to justify its billing system.  An ethical person (lawyer, dog walker, carpenter, or gym coach) only bills for hours actually worked.
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Richard Tanzer
Patent Agent
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