By now most have heard of the lady who fumed when a courtesy eight word e-mail response (“I hope everything is O.K. Take your time.”) was billed by her attorney at $60 (.2 hours x $300 hourly rate). Her experience left her asking one question: “How does anyone treat people like this and still manage to stay in business?” That is the problem in a nutshell. Lawyers are trained to be lawyers and not profit-focused business people. In other words, they are not focused on staying in business.
Ignoring for a second the fact that taking twelve minutes to compose such a response may not have been very efficient use of time, the associate who wrote it was just thinking like a lawyer when it came to billing his or her time. The time was spent so it should be billed. Whereas a profit-focused law firm would have likely collected such non-substantive email, tallied the time, put all such time on the bill — and then assign a zero charge to this “non-billable time”, more often than not such over-the-top charges fall through the cracks and end up actually going out to clients. A profit-focused law firm would never have let such a bill leave its doors given such a business realizes just how damaging it would be to its bottom line to charge for eight word emails that involve no true billable time.