Young Lawyers Column by Kevin Cook

Bill? Or read this article?

  • By
  • | 12:00 p.m. September 8, 2003
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
  • News
  • Share

When Ray Driver asked someone to write this article several months ago, I immediately volunteered. As always, I gave myself plenty of time, which, of course, means I started yesterday. Now, with the deadline fast approaching, I had to come up with something to fill this space, 500 words to be exact.

What could I write?

Oh, I thought, the JBA’s YLS section is sponsoring a happy hour Sept. 15, at River City Brewing Co. from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The results for the July Bar Exam are available that afternoon, so the idea is for all members of the JBA to celebrate with those that are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to pass (and for those of you that don’t pass, you’re still welcome to show up but you’ll have to pay full price for your drinks). There will be drink specials and hors d’oeuvres. See, that was about 120 words right there. A great start, only 340 words left.

Seriously though, I had to first decide on a tone for the article: serious, sarcastic, irreverent, paternalistic? In honor of Hank Coxe, I chose serious irreverence with a hint of sarcastic paternalism.

OK. I’d chosen a tone, now I needed a topic. Some of my ideas really weren’t that bad. Most would read an article about What They Don’t Teach You in Law School, others should be ordered to read an article about What They Tried to Teach You in Law School. Still others may simply want some answers to those age-old questions: Why are beagles so cute and why judges aren’t? Why is it so hot? Why would the FDOT ever raise the Main Street Bridge during morning, lunch, or afternoon rush hour? Do you offer something IN evidence, INTO evidence, or does it even matter? Who changes the payout amounts on the lottery billboards? Learning to merge: the causes of traffic on JTB? Yes, those would have been great articles.

Suddenly, I had an even better idea.

Billing, as we all know, is the cornerstone of an associate’s life (2,000 hours and the partners learn your name; 2,200 and your spouse forgets it; more than that and your just plain lying).

My idea: write this article about something for which I could also bill — the proverbial two birds with one stone.

Alright, I thought, what case could I write this article about and bill for at the same time. The divorce case where the wife ran away with her husband’s best friend (after the husband billed a record 2,500 hours) or the case about the abusive tax shelter? I chose the latter because tax law is simply more interesting (oh yes, and my motion to compel in that case was due the next day). Here are some of my notes on that motion:

Winston (W125-2526)

Atty notes (KBC) 08/26/03

If the government is relying on financial statements prepared in conjunction with allegedly privileged third-party documents, does that waive the accountant/client privilege for those documents? Can the government, as a party, waive a non-party’s privilege?

Under the Patriot Act, only John Ashcroft can answer this.

Note to file: write opinion letter to attorney general Ashcroft.

[Time Entry: Find time sheet (0.1); consider issues for motion to compel (0.7); discuss this article, I mean case, with senior partner (0.4); write this time entry (0.1); return time sheet to place where I’ll again have to search for it (0.1)]

While working on this tax case (and this article), I went to get my afternoon Diet Dr. Pepper only to discover that Ashcroft had taken the last one. No, seriously, I was told that associates are required to “bill” 100 non-billable hours each year. Holy smokes, that was great news.

My first thought: would golf qualify? My second thought: I could actually spend time on this article, and not try to simultaneously bill and non-bill. This realization eliminated my unspoken, but very real, apprehension that my plan violated The Florida Bar’s double billing rule: writing my motion to compel as a pleading (which is billable) and writing my motion to compel as an article (which is non-billable). If one were billable and the other non-billable but required, is that “double billing?”

I was back to thinking about what to write. Remember, I only had 500 words and really want something that was worth reading. Hey, I thought, what about the Internet? I could go online and find an idea for this article.

(One non-billable hour later) Nope, but the Red Sox won last night. The online satirical newspaper, The Onion, was funny: George Bush Diagnosed with Attention-to-Deficit Disorder. That’s good. And, Jennifer Lopez is dating someone. My Google search: “last minute articles, ideas or stories about the Jacksonville Bar Association, Young Lawyers Section” produced only an pop-up ad.

In the end, I still hadn’t found something to write about, and I was out $550 for two round-trip tickets to Chicago. The article was starting to cost me money. I had to end it.

In conclusion, and with only 97

non-billable hours remaining and

my magic number of 500 in the rearview mirror, it’s safe to say that we all could learn something from this experience . . . and, if any of you know what that is, please let everyone else know. I guess what I am really trying to say is that my 500 words are finally up.



Special Offer: $5 for 2 Months!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.