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High rate of bill padding, according to 1996 survey?

William Ross, a professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law, conducted a billing survey in 1996. Although the results are a decade old, nothing has happened since then to change the landscape, so the findings are disturbing. Perhaps.

Ross found that “two-thirds of the attorneys (and three-fourths of the clients) reported knowledge of bill padding,” according to the Wall St. J., Aug. 30, 2006 at B2.

That finding does not mean that two-thirds of the attorneys admitted to padding their bills. “Reported knowledge of bill padding” has a squishy feeling that doesn’t let you state firmly just what the words mean. Nor does the quoted language limit the findings by time or by amount. Did they have that “knowledge” based on the past year, two years, twenty years? Does one hour added wrongfully count as much in support for that “knowledge” as an egregious pattern of deliberate bill inflation over a long period? The quote also makes me wonder because clients found more padding than did lawyers, which means to me that some convictions of padding are judgmental.