Different interpretations of block billing

So-called “block billing” happens when a lawyer in a law firm consolidates more than one task into a time sheet description and states the number of hours billed for the entire block. Law departments do not like block billing because the reviewing lawyer cannot tell how much task individual components of that time entry took to complete. Most outside counsel guidelines prohibit block billing.

It is useful to consider some examples of the range of block billings. I am indebted to Karen Boyd, Esq. for these examples.

Block billed (awful): Draft email to opposing counsel re schedule for Morrison deposition; legal research on preliminary injunction factors, draft legal section of PI opposition; work on invalidity claim chart for Lemmelson reference. 8.7 hours.

Task billed (better): Draft email to opposing counsel re schedule for Morrison deposition (3.4 hours); legal research on preliminary injunction factors (0.4 hours), draft legal section of PI opposition ( 0.4 hours); analyze factual record in light of same (0.5 hours); work on invalidity claim chart for Lemmelson reference (4 hours).

“Clumped” task billed (better still): Draft email to opposing counsel re schedule for Morrison deposition (3.4 hours); legal research on preliminary injunction factors, draft legal section of PI opposition, analyze factual record in light of same ( 1.3 hours); work on invalidity claim chart for Lemmelson reference (4 hours).

This example shows how block billing can make unreasonable amounts of time (3.4 hours for an email on a discrete issue) impossible to detect. It also shows the “clumping” of PI-related tasks, which makes the bill both easier for the law firms to deal with and easier for the law department to review.

Further, here are some examples of what people DON’T mean by block billing:

Billing on the same tasks at different times of day (awful): Legal research on preliminary injunction factors (9-9:42, 0.7 hours); draft memo re same (11:06-11:54, 0.8 hours); analyze factual record in light of same (2:12-4:06, 1.9 hours); t/c with lead counsel re strategy re same (5:36-6:00, 0.4 hours).

Combined billing on a related set of tasks (better): Legal research on preliminary injunction factors; draft memo re same; analyze factual record in light of same; t/c with lead counsel re strategy re same. 3.8 hours

Also acceptable: work on preliminary injunction opposition. 3.8 hours.

Too much detail, over-splitting (waste of effort to prepare): Review Lemmelson reference (0.8 hours); review ‘123 patent (1.2 hours); compare Lemmelson reference to claim 1 of ‘123 patent (1.1 hours); compare Lemmelson reference to claim 4 of ‘123 patent ( 0.9 hours); draft invalidity claim chart showing said comparisons (0.8 hours); strategize re best invalidity arguments for ‘123 patent in light of Lemmelson reference (0.4).

Better: Invalidity analysis of ‘123 patent in light of Lemmelson reference. 5.2 hours

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