Law firms and charges to prepare bills — is it ever appropriate?

Under the model rules of conduct, it is normally inappropriate for a law firm to allow its timekeepers to charge clients for time they put into preparing bills (See John W. Toothman and William G. Ross, Legal Fees: Law and Management 44 (2003) and its citation to Restatement (Third) The Law Governing Lawyers, Sec. 38(3)(a)). Billing is an administrative necessity of a firm, a cost of business covered by billing rates, not a valued service to the client, and may not be charged. As Toothman and Ross put it, “The distinction should be made between efforts to manage or run the law firm and those that are professional services rendered to the client.”

My question arises where the billing demands are extraordinary and spill over into analysis. Say if the law department demands that lawyers complete detailed, customized task codes, provide fulsome descriptions of what they did, sort the bills by two or three different criteria, break out all disbursements in detail, match current spending to budget, gussy it up with graphs and trend lines and statistics, and project spending in the coming months, would that abuse this proscription?

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