04 Nov Billing for Services and Record Keeping As an Expert Witness
As a consultant or an entrepreneur, you probably now invoice for services and do not require any help with preparing invoices to submit to clients. If you do need a new or more efficient method, QuickBooks is useful software that can manage your finances as well as prepare invoices for clients. It also keeps track of how much money individual clients owe you for legal services.
Clients frequently write checks to attorneys for their services, and payments for your invoices then come from client accounts at the law firm. In these cases, the attorney or his law firm will pay your bills when you submit them. sometimes the clients will pay your invoices directly. Either way, however, take time to document your work and prepare invoices for submission. To keep everyone apprised of your progress, it is best to submit a copy of your invoice to both the client and the attorney. As your work progresses, keep records of what you do, the dates on which you do it, how much time you spend, who you have met, and with whom you have spoken. These records will help you to prepare your invoices.
You should always provide minimal details on an invoice, and should never contain any confidential facts. For example, you should not include details of private conversations. You can write that you spoke to or met with an individual, read something, or done a series of tests. Put dates and a brief summary but no further details on the invoice. Submit your invoices regularly, based on how much work or time you spend.
Maintain a record in your file folder of your time and your expenses. Allocate one or more lines each day that you work on the case. Note the date and the hours you spent and what you did. If you have different billing fees for different activities, then keep track of those activities separately.
You should keep a log of each telephone call from the attorney about the case. When you receive a call from an attorney, note the start time of the call, the date and the end time of the call. You should contain these phone conversations as part of your regular billings, but again, do not write any confidential data in your notes or on the invoice.
Additionally, keep track of any out-of-pocket expenses for which you might charge as well. This includes copying, binding, or printing. It also includes third-party services for graphics and exhibit preparation, shipping, and travel expenses for hotels, food, taxis, and rental cars.
You can take the approach that you obtain such a high wage for your time as an expert that it’s petty to charge for minor expenses. That is reasonable, but you will still have additional non-trivial expenses and should charge for them.
There is one final note about charging for anything, trivial or not. Once you have established yourself as an expert witness, you may occasionally be asked to offer your services for no cost (‘pro bono’ work) or for discounted fees. This usually only happens after you’ve established a reputation. People who cannot otherwise afford an expert witness may approach you for help, and will hope to obtain your help at no charge. At other times, foundations or charitable organizations may ask you to offer your services at discounted fees because of the good works that they undertake. In both cases, you have an opportunity to do a wonderful deed at nominal cost to yourself, other than the time you might expend doing it. Let your morals and ethics, and hopefully a willingness to contribute back to the community, be your guide. As a side benefit, however, all such cases add to the overall experience that you can claim and also bring to bear on future case work.