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A Wee Time Management Question: Do You Bill for Bathroom Breaks?

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

At my first job out of law school, lawyers billed in 15 minute increments. That seems crazy because the industry is so wedded to the six-minute standard, but the billing blocks weren't the strangest phenomenon in the office. No, what really kept people talking was the attorney who always stayed on his Bluetooth. Even in the bathroom.

This guy regularly did business ... while doing business.

Great attorney. Hard worker. But were the bathroom conversations really necessary? And were they billable?

Lawyers’ annual billing requirements typically fall within the 1800 to 2000 hour range, according to the National Association for Legal Career Professionals. To reach that billing requirement, lawyers actually work approximately 2,000 to 2,200 hours. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains, “a lawyer may need to put in 10 hours in order to log 8 genuinely billable hours.” Duh. So, assuming that attorneys want to live the dream of a work-life balance, bathroom billing isn’t the worst idea.

And it’s not explicitly verboten. Double billing and padded billing are absolutely prohibited, but the Model Rule of Professional Conduct are silent on where you can bill. As long as you don’t charge or collect an unreasonable fee for your time, bathroom billing should be fine. Assuming of course you are actually working.

We all know that working on a client matter doesn’t necessarily require drafting a memo. Sometimes, you’re just mulling an issue and mentally working through solutions. If you can remain actively engaged in your work while in the bathroom, why should that six-minute block be different from six minutes at your desk?

Calling a client while taking a time out is tacky, but there’s no reason can’t you review a case or a brief on the throne. After all, you can’t spell “six-minute increment” without excrement.

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