Monday, January 26, 2009

Legal Billing - Differences between Germany and the US (Part 2)

And on we go - one part of the legal billing that has always been treated differently, is the one surrounding criminal matters and administrative fines. Historically legal work in the area of criminal matters and administrative fines was considered a part of the legal practices that require a different approach and therefore should follow a different billing-philosophy. Having said this, for decades the billing in this field would not take into consideration the amount of time and preparation that was needed in preparation as well as presentation before the trial, but mainly the trial itself. All that was changed with the 2004 changes in the RVG; criminal matters are now contained in part 4 of the RVG annex. Here it is determined that in addition to a procedural fee, a basic fee has to be set for the process to get familiar with the matter, and one in case a preliminary hearing and/or investigation is deemed necessary. Should the court appoint counsel, her fee corresponds to 80% of the fee of a chosen counsel. Administrative fines are set in the following part of the annex, part 5. They follow the rules for fees for criminal matters.
Now to an area that is especially interesting for non-billable staff. How are they put in the billing picture? Similar to the concept behind the amount for billing by the hour, attorneys will add into their spreadsheet the time they anticipate their support personal to spend on the matter. Named support staff consists mainly of legal secretaries who work the administrative side of the case, as well as research attorneys. While the German legal system does not know law librarians, we do have something similar in the person of research attorneys, who will not be paid the same amount as a fully licensed attorney but bring with them a tremendous amount of knowledge (like a law librarian).

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