New York Debt Collection Litigation: Can You Substantiate Your Bill for Time?

In a contested debt collection litigation, mediation or arbitration, you may be asked to document time billed.

The act and recording of time spent on an engagement came under the microscope in a recent case. Our client, a consultant in the construction industry, experienced this in a recent NY Debt Collection Litigation fee dispute case.  Although the case was ultimately settled and paid, the consultant was taken by surprise.

The outstanding bills which made up the balance due were for time spent by the client on the phone, in and out of the office and on cell, during which time he actively negotiated with governmental agencies on his client’s behalf and conferring with other lawyers to achieve the desired result.

Just to let you know, this client had repeatedly hired the consultant for his expertise and impeccable track record. Never before had the client questioned the consultant’s time. As you can imagine, it was a surprise to our client that when litigation commenced and the formerly satisfied client questioned the accuracy of the consultant’s time.

A nasty battle ensued with defense counsel which included the defendant’s attorney picking apart each and every item of the consultant’s bills by way of paper discovery, depositions and subpoenas to third parties including client’s wireless carrier, telephone provider and office provider. E-discovery of client’s computer records to verify client’s activities on the case and then some.

The consultant always simultaneously recorded time spent working on the engagement regardless of his location. He had the technology to insure contemporaneous billing. It was for this reason that the consultant was able to substantiate his time billing with little effort to meet his burden of proof as Plaintiff.

Are you billing for time? Do you have the necessary records to support time spent on the engagement?   Is your client familiar with the method you use to track time? Why not share the information with your clients in advance to avoid possible challenges to your time billing and avoid unpaid bills or the legitimacy of a defense based upon improper billing in NY Debt Collection Litigation?

If you are looking for help getting paid or have questions as to whether your business practices insure your best chances of getting paid, contact Jocelyn Nager or call 212-686-0100 ext. 12.