I have never answered a question like this so hopefully someone with experience will answer.
We attorneys are not supposed to double bill. If I do an hour's worth of research that benefits both clients I am not supposed to bill both clients. I do not do that, so I don't worry about it. I'm not 100% but that's what I remember from my Bar Exams.
If you are handling this yourself, you need to simply deal with common sense. What were you told that doesn't match what you were billed? How can you back it up? Phone calls? Letters? Client Engagement Agreement?
Present what evidence you think backs up your claims. And do it in an organized fashion.
Do you have a client engagement agreement? Your client engagement agreement should clearly spell out the terms of representation and what charges you will incur. I always give my clients a heads up when costs or time is getting unwieldy due to an unexpected issue. I at least attempt to guesstimate what the client may be "in for." Don't like using those words, but you get the point. Also you say you were told to "check to see what type of work that was performed ...work." If you have an invoice, it should detail exactly what the lawyer did. e.g. "Draft letter; travel to/fro court for Motion to Dismiss; Hearing before Judge XYZ; t/c to client immediately after hearing outside of courthouse" etc. You should have requested detailed billing and received it. Also, you are usually responsible for Attorney Fees and Costs - these are two separate items and should also be spelled out in your client engagement agreement. I may charge you $300/hour for my work as an attorney; $125 for my paralegal's work for examply but you are also going to be billed maybe $1.00/page for faxing, .10 for copying, postage etc. If this is the part that you think is "unfair" then your lawyer did not properly explain his billing / invoicing. You should not have these issues if your Client Engagement Agreement was clear and your attorney should have gone over it with you. NOTE TO ANY LAY PERSONS READING THIS - (a) Make sure you have a Client Engagement Agreement; (b) Review anything you don't understand; (c) ASK QUESTIONS - always ask - "Am I responsible for Attorney Fees' AND Costs and what is the breakdown?" Also are the included costs? I included a certain amount of copies and faxing, etc. per month. Each attorney may be as flexible as they wish but you should not be "surprised." Best of luck to you and I hope this helps in some way.
Most fee disputes are resolved in manditory fee arbitration, not mediation. Arbitration is binding (on the attorney and appealable by the client) but mediation is a completely consentual proceeding trying to find a win-win, instead of arbitration/litigation which are essentially win-lose.
You cannot "lose" a mediation, you can only fail to reach a settlement.
That being said, there are so many books about mediationj and so many about attorney fees that a short analysis is not possible. The essence of mediation is that however "clear" or "obvious" the case is to you, it has weaknesses,and voluntary payment today is better than chasing a resisting debtor for years to come.
The "cross examination" of an attorney on double billing is not likely to be easy.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
Mediation or arbitration, the best you can do is to take each item you are being billed for and if you dispute it, have your argument ready and any documentation to back it up. For example, if you see on your bill you are being charged 2 hours to review a letter, when it more appropriately should be 15 minutes, have that letter handy to show the mediator/arbitrator. I it is a 1/2 page letter, the ruling on that charge should go in your favor. Do this for each item billed. I agree that it will be difficult to prove double billing. Good luck.
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