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Fordham Urban Law Journal

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If you ask law firm attorneys to identify their biggest complaint related to private law practice, most will probably respond with one word: billing. At the same time, clients are likely to identify billing as their most serious concern associated with obtaining legal services. The irony in clients and attorneys sharing frustration over hourly billing relates to the fact that the initial interest in hourly billing stemmed from attorneys' desire to be efficient and to maximize their earnings and clients' preference for only paying for the actual time expended on their behalf. Since the 1960s, hourly billing has evolved as the dominant billing method used by noncontingency fee attorneys. When hourly billing became widespread, the number of billable hours expected of firm attorneys dramatically increased as billable hours clocked and business generated assumed greater importance in evaluating attorney contributions and compensation. As explained by one commentator, "[h]ourly billing, which started as a tool for law office management, turned into a requirement for all timekeepers to bill a large minimum number of hours per year. Salary, bonus and growth within the firm began to be largely based on the number of hours billed."



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