Should Lawyers Charge Taxpayers for an Airport Apple?

Ahh government work.

If you bill government entities for your time, inevitably someone wants to, you know, look at your expenses and see whether your billings are reasonable.

Why can't they just act like big corporations and let all this stuff slide?

Take St. Pete Beach, where taxpayers are apparently incensed that Miami lawyers from Bryant Miller Olive travel there and then expense ridiculous things -- like bottled water and an apple -- just to do the city's majestically boring and mind-numbingly dull legal work:
But Weiss says the city is allowing the law firm to bill tax payers for money it doesn't deserve. For example, the retainer agreement does not say attorneys should get their hourly rate for travel, but the firm charges $205 an hour in addition to the cost of air fare when attorney's travel from offices in Miami and Tallahassee.

Weiss says when lawyers travel from the Miami office to the area it is $615 dollars to get them here and then they charge three hours going back.

In addition, Weiss says the out of town attorneys charge for everything. He says some of the strange things include a lawyer charging $600 dollars to fly here, getting paid $205 an hour and then charging the city $2.10 for a bottle of water and $1.00 for an apple they buy at the airport. He says there is no concern for the taxpayer. 
Three dollars and ten cents just to sustain a Miami lawyer's insatiable need for water and a light snack?

What an outrage.

By that I mean, what an outrage that an attorney from our city has to go to St. Pete Beach for business!

Whatever happened to fancy dinners in Vegas, New York, LA -- this poor schmuck has to travel to some podunk backwater and suffer the indignity of having her one dollar airport apple purchase dissected by an irate citizen.

Like I said, government work.....


  1. better than what Surfside is paying

  2. Contrary view: If the hourly rate ticker is clicking, you should buy your own water.

    If you need an apple to be effective that is one of the things we are paying you $200 an hour for! The hourly fee includes your office, your secretary, pens, paper, apples and water.

    The biggest thieves in the practice of law are the big-city, big-firm lawyers. Small town dirtbags have to steal from the trust account; big-city dirtbags do it with an invoice.

  3. If I'm out of the office on business, clock ticking or not ticking, I'm supposed to get reimbursed for my travel expenses. But, I've always questioned this, if I buy lunch then I'm not traveling I don't get to charge it to a client, why do I get to charge b/c I'm traveling? Its never made sense to me. As a result I don't normally seek reimbursement for expenses that I would incur at home, i.e. lunch, but do seek reimbursement for travel related costs, mileage, airfare, hotel, rental car, parking, etc.

    I was out of the office on Friday, had lunch at Starbucks, charged it to me not to the client.

  4. The question I have is, why would St. Pete Beach feel the need to hire a Miami firm in the first place? It's not like there is a shortage of qualified firms in the Tampa Bay area.

  5. Anon @12:45 - Well said. My rule of thumb is simple: Put yourself in the client's shoes and ask yourself what's a reasonable expense that directly relates to the task you are performing.

  6. Anon@12:45 - what if I bring lunch to the office everyday? If I'm traveling, I'm forced to pay double or triple what I normally pay to sustain myself. I'm traveling for the client.

    I think there should be a per diem expense for food/water when traveling. They are expenses that you might not have necessarily incurred if you were not traveling. Or 1/2 of what it actually costs, which is how the IRS calculates meals when traveling.

    But I agree that I wouldn't necessarily charge the client for a snack. I saw an invoice from an attorney for a Twinkie and that just seemed ridiculous to me.

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