Practicing law involves unintended consequences. I never realized, for instance, that I would have to actively engage in subterfuge. The subterfuge is necessary if I want to get paid.
I must account for whatever I am doing in six-minute increments. The greater the number of six-minute chunks that appear on my timesheet, the more the firm makes, or at least, that is the way it is supposed to work, according to the Vast and Unimpeachable Rule Book of Legal Defense Work, which is somewhere in the attic of the UConn law library, next to Prosser and Keeton on Table Manners, 4th Edition. The method in which my time is recorded matters. It matters to the Legendary Bill Auditors, who live in Darkest New Jersey and are waiting hungrily each month for time sheets with their sharp red pencils, hoping to find something to circle.
The Legendary Bill Auditors require gentle handling. They are sensitive creatures, alert to even the most trivial deviations from what is an acceptable entry. They know how much time everything should take, within tenths of a second, right down to correcting case names that somehow came out looking as if they were written in Serbo-Croatian as the result of arranging one’s fingers on the wrong row of the keyboard while unwrapping chocolate, and typing anyway. They also require detail.
Reviewing and revising, for instance, seems to the Legendary Bill Auditors to be entirely too passive an activity. This same activity must be described as reviewing, revising and supplementing whatever it is, was or shall be, even if you only added a semicolon. It will not do to state merely that one has corresponded with another. One must also set forth the subject and substance of the correspondence, including what everyone was wearing when he read it. If it takes longer than the Legendary Bill Auditors believe it should to do any of that, out come the red pencil stilettoes. You might get (a) a warning, which is bad enough, as it looks just like the other thing you might get, which is (b) An Imperial Refusal to Pay.
The vigilant proclivities of the Legendary Bill Auditors force me to describe how I do things in, I regret, a dishonest manner. This is not to say that I add any six-minute increments to the time expended for any task; but I must pretend to conduct my practice of law differently than I do. The Legendary Bill Auditors envision a sublimely organized world in which one first reviews documents, such as transcripts or medical charts, for, say, point six, then neatly replaces the material back in the cupboard; reviews local jurisdprudence for no more than point seven; then produces a factual and procedural exposition, followed by a compelling legal argument, peppered with italics, citations, and sometimes verbs. There is one tribe of Legendary Bill Auditors that requires page counts, whether the pages have been read, or are being written, however, the amount of time spent counting the pages is not permitted to be billed, but I digress. The entire product, when the incremental work is added up, must take no more than a certain amount, depending on the type of project, but not its complexity.
I confess, I do not work like this. When I am writing, I simply start writing. By the end of the process, Westlaw is open on the computer, transcripts, notes and records litter the floor and the desk, picked up periodically and discarded again with no heed paid to how long they are, and there is chocolate all over everything. Eventually there is a finished document which, when submitted to the court, sometimes makes a difference. Then, I must reconstruct what I looked at, how long I spent reviewing it, how much time was spent on legal argument, versus actual cutting and pasting of supportive law. And still, waiting in my box, will be an Imperial Refusal to Pay.
For the record, no animals were harmed in the making of this column, which took one point three to write. Never mind reviewing and revising. •