California Attorney Sues Firm Over 3,000 Billable Hour Quota

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on December 12, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Ever wish you could bill your clients for your "thinking time"? One California attorney claims that that's exactly what his firm had him do. He's now suing them for wrongfully terminating him after he failed to meet his billable hour quota.

Richard Unitan, the attorney in question, says that the firm simply has unrealistic billing requirements. He says that his former employers are committing billing fraud, and he was only fired because he refused to follow suit.

These are pretty litigious statements, to say the least. Unitan says his firm wanted him to bill 3,000 hours a year. Let's break that down:

There are 52 weeks in a year. Divide 3,000 hours by 52 weeks, and you get roughly 57 hours. Considering there are 7 days in a week, an employee at Unitan's law firm would have to work approximately 8 hours a day in order to meet the 3,000 goal.

This isn't even taking into account weekends. If you want to get two days off a week, you'd have to work around 11 hours a day.

These calculations don't even factor in vacations and sick days. In short, if what Unitan says is true, attorneys at his firm are working a lot.

Unitan alleges that the firm is engaging in what might be slightly unethical billing practices. The suit says that lawyers in his firm had to get "creative" with clients -- including billing for "thinking time," and that he had to bill in 6-minute increments. He was also instructed to bill for each discrete task. For example: read an email, bill .1 hours. Respond to the email, bill .1 hours.

Total hours billed for an email that takes 2 minutes to read and reply? 0.2 hours.

Some other attorneys at Unitan's office have disputed his claims, the ABA Journal reports. Greedy attorneys bilking clients? Or just a tale of a disgruntled former employee pointing fingers at their ex-employer? Time will tell.

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