LUMP BILLING PRACTICES|
Mr. Balent is fully aware that this is an unfavorable practice but continues to employ it in an effort to hide accountability and the true costs of any given task. It's generally held that this practice pads the billing by up to 30%, but this website suspects that Mr. Balent may pad bills by a far larger percentage given his public records and the accounts of other clients. The California Bar issued an Arbitration Advisory on the subject of Detecting Attorney Bill Padding way back in 2003, which in part deals with the subject of Lump Billing. So the question appears to be, is John Balent cheating you with intent or is he simply incompetent on one of the most basic issues of how attorneys should bill their clients?
Current and former clients of Mr. Balent should take note that Mr. Balent fails to Show the basis (Rate) in his billing statements which are grounds to void any retainer agreement with Mr. Balent per the requirements of the Business and Professions Code Section 6048. He may have also failed to give you a bill within 10 days of your requests which will also void your contract with John Balent.
Clients should also note that Mr. Balent states in his retainer agreement that no portion of the retainer is refundable, However, that statement is untrue the moment Mr. Balent bills you against the retainer amount as only true retainer agreements where a client pays a fee only for the purposes of retaining an attorneys availability are nonrefundable. John Balent even goes so far as to put a statement about retaining his availability in his retainer, which he should be fully aware is untrue. You can read more about this in the Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3-700(D). So once again a question should be asked, why does John Balent have such statements in his retainer agreement? Is it to deceive you into believing you can't get your money back or is simply incompetent in the basics of how attorney/client agreements should read?
So if you have funds that you paid Mr. Balent that he has not already eaten up, you are entitled to have them refunded back to you. If Mr. Balent fails to refund any unused portion of his retainer you should file a complaint with the California Bar Association and file for Mandatory Fee Arbitration through your local Bar Association.
For your own information, any current, former and prospective clients may want to review the entire Rules of Professional Conduct if you have other concerns about Mr. Balent.
Below is a client billing Statement of Mr. Balent's from August 2012 where you can see exactly how Mr. Balent Lump & Bulk bills his clients and if you look closely you will see examples of double billing and items billed at a different rate than the time shown. You will also have a problem figuring out Mr. Balent's billing increments as he sometimes bills in tenths of an hour and sometimes in quarter hours and in some cases twentieths of an hour. You may also be tempted to count exactly how many times Mr. Balent bulk bills the terms "Review File," "Prepare Strategy" and "Memo to File," terms that are commonly used by unethical attorneys to pad the billing. To save you time, those terms are used over 100 times on the billing statement shown below.
Also of note regarding the statement below, according to the client, Mr. Balent told the client that this case would not exceed $5000, but amassed billings of $38,648.00, seven and a half times the quoted maximum costs. It should also be noted that over a period of 27 months Mr. Balent incompetently sent the first $20,000 in billings to the client's spouse rather than the client and to an address that his client never resided. Not only was the client's spouse made aware of any legal strategy (Assuming Mr. Balent had one), the client was unaware that Mr. Balent had billed and removed funds from a client trust account without the clients knowledge or authorization. In all Mr. Balent removed $40,000 from a Client Trust account without the knowledge, authorization or permission of the parties involved.
Oh, and a couple other fun facts, a year and a half after trial where Mr. Balent failed to get a favorable result for his client on nearly every issue, and due to Mr. Balent's failure to act, his client is still not divorced which was the client's purpose in hiring Mr. Balent in the first place. Additionally, after billing the client $38,648.00, Mr. Balent has filed a motion to be relieved as counsel and will be attempting to abandon this client with the job unfinished.
Here is the billing statement (Adobe Acrobat Reader Required)
Current or potential clients of John Balent should ask themselves if they want to be represented by a Family Law Attorney who bills like this?