FEE APPLICATIONS

As the attorneys who practice before this Court know, the Court has an obligation to review every fee application under 11 U.S.C. 330 & 331, even when no party-in-interest has objected to it. As a service to the bar, we have highlighted below (a) billing practices that will ensure a more timely review; and (b) billing practices that have caused the Court to order the reduction of fees and/or expenses.

I.     FAVORABLE BILLING PRACTICES

A. Separate billing categories for major issues in the case.
B. Breaking out the time spent on various tasks within a larger billing entry.
C. Clear descriptions of the topics of meetings, telephone calls, and conferences.
D. Assigning work to the lowest appropriate level of professional/paraprofessional.
E. Attaching back-up for expenses exceeding $25.
F. Use of clear descriptors of the task performed for lengthy time entries (for example, "analyze" rather than "review").
G. Entries that reflect the firm is exercising billing judgment and reducing its own fees where appropriate.
H. Clear explanations in the Application and/or billing statements of the need for numerous professionals to be involved in meetings, hearings, conferences, or telephone calls.
I. Including an identification of the role of any non-bankruptcy specialist, i.e. "telecommunications counsel" or "securities counsel."

II .     DISFAVORED BILLING PRACTICES

A. Work Performed at the Wrong Level:
  1. Senior professional performing junior professional/paraprofessional work. Example: partner conducting legal research at a partner’s hourly rate.
  2. Professionals/paraprofessionals performing clerical tasks (e.g. copying/mailing, setting up and organizing files) at professional and paraprofessional rates.
  3. Professionals performing work that should be done by the client or a third party. Example: trustee’s counsel performs services that the trustee should perform, such as (a) basic accounting or record keeping functions of the estate; and (b) debtor’s counsel performs legal services that benefit a non-debtor subsidiary, rather than the debtor’s estate.
B. Over Billing:
  1. Excessive time researching basic legal issues (issue is not unique).
  2. Excessive time drafting or reviewing simple pleadings/notices/orders.
  3. Excessive hours billed by one person in a single day. We do not, however, subscribe to a per se rule that denies compensation for more than 8 hours per day.
  4. Work on issues not relevant to the case (e.g., keeping the business alive in a liquidating case, cash collateral research where there are no secured creditors).
  5. Duplication of effort by lead and local or co- counsel. We recognize the need for coordination of efforts, but we review for excessive time in this area.
  6. Duplication of effort/tasks by professionals in the same firm. See No. 8 above.
  7. Too many professionals/attorneys in the same firm working on an issue. This is especially a problem when several attorneys are involved in drafting and reviewing the same motion or pleading.
  8. Too many professionals billing to attend court hearings/client meetings/conference calls (acceptable level - primary client contact, the lead professional on the issue and local counsel). We encourage the attendance of young professionals, as part of their training, but do not allow counsel to bill for their time as well unless they meaningfully participated in the hearing. If there is a special reason why several attorneys from the same firm need to attend the same hearing/conference call/meeting, counsel should be prepared to explain the necessity in the fee application.
  9. Excessive interoffice conferences.
  10. Conferences with professionals/paraprofessionals not involved in the case or on the particular issue being discussed. Again, if there is a special need, be prepared to explain it in the fee application.
  11. Senior (or any) professionals billing to review documents/pleadings/correspondence on issues on which they are not involved.
  12. Inconsistent billing among professionals for the same meeting/hearing/conference call.
C. Insufficient Detail:
  1. Time entries 1.0 or more not described with sufficient particularity, or a pattern of numerous smaller time entries not described with sufficient particularity, especially conferences/calls/research/drafting with no subject matter listed. Be sure you communicate to your inexperienced firm members the importance of specificity in their time entries.
  2. Lumping of tasks without separating the time spent on each item in a single entry (e.g, billing 8.0 hours to a single descriptive paragraph listing numerous phone calls, conferences, research, and drafting without time breakdown within the description.)
D. Retention and Bill Issues:
  1. Billing to revise or format the firm’s bills (for extensive time and/or at full billing rate).
  2. Billing for conflict checks in connection with being retained in the case.
  3. Billing that is inconsistent with the firm’s enunciated billing policies (e.g., fee application says travel time is billed at rate, but the invoices bill travel at full rate).
E. Expense Reimbursement Issues:
  1. Failure to provide documentation of expenses in excess of $25.
  2. Flying first class (exceptions made for emergencies where no other seats available).
  3. Duplicative charges.

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