Friday, September 16, 2011

Defending your billings: critiques happen!

It is never fun (or billable) to defend the time you spent on a particular project. However, we all have to do so from time to time. Clients or attorneys may ask you to explain an extraordinary amount of time spent on a particular project, and you need to be able to defend your entries quickly, so as not to lose too many precious billable hours.

I had that awesome experience the other day. I have trouble with a particular client all the time. He is a master of critique, and (I swear) laughs in typical evil villain vibrato as he tortures me. (Bwa ha ha ha!) Let's call him Evil Dick [Lame Big Brother reference in honor of the finale this week].

In one particular case, I needed to complete a large project, though not an unusual one.  Just so I am clear, this kind of project comes up in almost every case for this client, and usually takes about 20-30 hours to complete. The work is required. I knew the work was going to be out of proportion with the value of the case though, so I called Evil Dick's assistant (we'll call him Lacky) to confirm approval for said work. Lacky told me he would call me back after he spoke with Evil Dick about it. Lacky called me the next day and relayed Evil Dick's approval. 

I had detailed notes for the calls with Lacky and drafted a memo with a timeline. I was able to send the memo to B-Dub, who, in turn, forwarded it to the client with a note that the billing was not only reasonable, appropriate and under budget, it was PRE-APPROVED. Take that big client man with nothing better to do than pinch pennies until they erupt with blood!

These kind of events are hard not to take personally. When someone questions the time you billed on a particular project, it feels like your ethics are called into question, and your hard work is both unappreciated and devalued in the eyes of the client you work so hard for.

When it happens, remember that clients pay a lot of money for our time, and they may have some questions along the way to ensure their money is well-spent. 

The lesson here is to keep detailed notes and call your client for prior authorization on projects that require lots of time where your billings might be called into question. And... tell your Evil Dicks that the initials ED probably weren't assigned to him by Lucky Lacky for no reason. Just sayin'...


  1. Go you for having great notes and being super prepared!

  2. Really great advice, thanks for this post! :)