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Billing While Traveling

published May 05, 2008

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05/05/08

Of course, if you travel for one case and work on another, long-settled laws ensure that you cannot double-bill. But what about just billing for your travel time? Many attorneys have fully billed for such time, even if they were napping during the taxi drive or flight.


But the Fifth Circuit just put the kibosh on that practice — at least to a limited extent. The court didn't totally kill it, but it did say you could only bill at reduced rates — 50% in this particular case.

It comes out of a bankruptcy case, actually. The firm sought fees of about $3 million for representing a large asbestos company, billing the full hourly rate for travel time even though the attorneys were not working on the case at the time. The bankruptcy trustee objected, and the judge agreed, awarding 50% of those fees to the firm. That decision by the judge knocked $135,000 or so off of the attorney's fees, and the district court as well as the Fifth Circuit agreed.

This decision will likely ignite a firestorm, as many attorneys will complain (and, indeed, already have), saying that getting up early and traveling is certainly work. So this should be an interesting development indeed!

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