Padding Hours to 'Look Busy' Doesn't Pay

By George Khoury, Esq. on January 16, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You'd think that after making partner, you wouldn't have to pretend to be working when another partner walks by. However, for one New York attorney facing public censure, he's learning the hard lesson that there's a big difference between juggling content around on a computer monitor and falsifying your billing logs, even if you're not sending the padded bills on to your clients.

The lawyer admitted to the fact that he falsified almost 95 hours in order to show his partners that he was busier than he actually was, but fortunately the court believe that he never intended to send, and never did send, those falsified hours on to any clients.

No Harm (to Clients), No Foul?

Notably, the New York court found that since there was actually no harm done to any client, and the attorney, Jeffrey A. Leighton, cooperated with their investigation, was embarrassed, remorseful, and lost his partnership position as a result, there was no need for discipline beyond just a public censure. Leighton, in over 30 years of practice, had never been subject to any other investigation, or discipline.

In the court's decision, it noted that had there been harm to any client, then they likely would have been looking at a suspension. Interestingly, there was no precedent for this decision; however, Leighton, in being cooperative, agreed to receive the public censure.

The Busy Trap

While it may be that as a collective society we are beginning to climb out of the so-called "busy trap" we all fell into a few years back, lawyers still struggle to find an ideal work-life balance. If a lawyer isn't "busy," other lawyers view that as a sign of struggling, or that the lawyer does not have enough work to do. After all, who would choose to enjoy their time if there was more work they could be doing?

Regardless of whether you work at a firm with rigid billable requirements, or you're a solo that only gets about 10 hours of legal work per week, at some point, the grass always starts to look greener on the other side (and it very well could be).

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