Lawyers at a top international firm were told to charge clients even when they were taking toilet breaks – because they would still be thinking about work.
Major commercial firm Nabarro instructed its lawyers to record any breaks of up to six minutes, prompting critics to question whether the company is “taking the p—”.
It was revealed earlier this year that top law firms are charging clients as much as £1,000 an hour, meaning a six minute toilet break could cost up to £100.
Nabarro’s ‘Time Recording Policy’, which was leaked to legal website RollOnFriday earlier this year, read: “Any short break, e.g. coffee break, of up to six minutes should still be recorded to the matter you are currently working on, on the basis that you would still be thinking about it”.
At the time, the firm said such approaches were common practice, adding that “most businesses build natural breaks into the cost of their services”.
“This approach to time recording is not unusual,” the spokesman said earlier this year.
“Indeed, some of our best legal minds have their best legal insights when they get up for a short break. Lunch is a different matter.”
However, a Nabarro spokesman told the Telegraph that the clause has since been removed from its guidance, because “it does not reflect the way we bill clients”.
The leak prompted a barrage of comments from lawyers on popular legal websites, with the Legal Cheek site asking its readers whether these policies were “taking the p—”.
One commenter said: “I know a solicitor who recorded time for when he was in the bath thinking about clients.”
Another asked: “Do Nabarro also charge clients for the time their lawyers spend stuck in the lifts?”
It was revealed in February that leading firms in the capital are charging up to £1,000 an hour, the highest rate ever recorded.
The report, from the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, found that hourly rates at the top commercial firms had risen to the record high in real terms from as much as £598 per hour in 2003.