Please note that this is not legal advice. See our disclaimer.
Attorneys are familiar with their duties and obligations for maintaining records of billable hours. This is especially important if you have an hourly or flat fee agreement with your clients. However, even in contingency cases, it is essential to know what was specifically finished on a case as well as how many hours it took to complete each task.
For flat fee cases, it is important to remember that your fee agreement should state if the fee is earned upon receipt or non-refundable. If it does not, then it is best practice to treat the payment as a retainer and place it in your IOLTA account until it is fully earned. If you fail to do so, you can subject yourself to disciplinary action for violation of RPC 1.15. Further, if a client dismisses an attorney, the client may be entitled to a refund of a flat fee.
If you can justify the time you have spent and detail every aspect of your representation, then you have a stronger basis to not only show that your flat fee was reasonable but also that it was fully earned.
Additionally, it is important to keep your time keeping records safe. If you keep them electronically, it is essential that you maintain the records in multiple locations in case of a technical failure. If you lose these records, it is impossible to resurrect what you have done on any cases with necessary accuracy. In order to protect yourself, it is essential to ensure that these records are maintained and that you have a back-up for these records.
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