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Is your patent lawyer padding your bill?

According to Rees Morrison, author of the blog Law Department Management, last year gave rise to a significant increase in the perception that law firms pad their bills.

In 2005 36% of corporate counsel surveyed agreed that most law firms pad their bills. 28% were neutral. By 2006, those numbers jumped to 42% and 24% respectively. While Morrison notes there are some concerns that the 2005 survey results may have raised awareness of the issue, and possibly skewed the 2006 results, the overall perception is still very real.

While the question referred to lawyers in general, the questions are particularly relevant to patent lawyers. While I would like to think patent lawyers are less likely to pad their bills, it is probably more difficult to tell if they do. The complexity of the work and the ever-changing governmental fee structure associated with protecting intellectual property makes reading bills from your patent lawyer almost impossible.

Even if your patent lawyer were padding your bill, there is little likelihood that you would ever find out for sure. I myself have never heard of any attorney admitting to padding a bill even when the actual bill appears to indicate some type of hole in the space-time continuum. The funny thing is that while law firms prohibit bill padding, the billing requirements some firms place on their lawyers makes bill padding nearly inevitable. So how do you know if your patent attorney is padding your bill?

Tomorrow. Some clues that you bills may be padded

Brett Trout

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