Spontaneous Exclamations: A brief holiday piece on padding your stats

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held, LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

Almost every attorney, at one point in their career, feels the itch.  Especially in this economy, when every hour counts towards job security, there’s a pressure to reach above and beyond stated goals.  Many attorneys work hard and hit their targets, while other attorneys may flounder or simply not receive enough work to bill the minimum required hours.  The itch to pad your stats a/k/a bill for extra time you did not work on a matter can be quite tempting.  On one hand, nobody may ever find out and you’ll get paid and bonused on hours you only worked in your wildest fantasies.  And what boring fantasies those would be.  On the other hand, you can fake hours and get caught, sanctioned, sued, and/or become a case study for all aspiring attorneys to examine in their dreaded mandatory ethics classes.

In honor of the holiday spirit, I’ll make this quick and easy for you:  DON’T DO IT.  If you choose to and get caught, you’ll end up with more than coal in your stocking or lose all of your Hanukkah gelt to poor dreidel spins.

It’s a simple weighing of benefits versus the consequences.  As an associate, if you pad your stats, you may hit your minimum hour requirement and be eligible for that lockstep raise and standing to move up a class year.  If you double-pad your stats and hit top bonus thresholds, you may receive a couple extra zeros on your bonus check and be the envy of the office, but at the end of the day you’ll have to not only live with yourself, but live with the fear of getting caught.  After you get busted, you will likely be sanctioned by your state bar, fired from your job, potentially blacklisted from your legal community, and (worst case scenario) featured on a slightly more famous law blog.  As a partner, if you pad your stats, say goodbye to your clients, and I shouldn’t need to remind you of this.

To all those who ignore this post, start with the (wo)man in the mirror, and as Michael Jackson aptly sang, “Take a look at yourself and then make a…CHANGE.”

With that in mind, here’s to a happy, ethical, and BlackBerry-free holiday season.

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