Expert Witness Credit Damage, How Do I Bill For Travel Time and Expenses?
It’s the million (or at least thousand) dollar question…how do you bill for travel time and expenses when you’re doing credit expert witness work? I’ll keep this short and sweet; it’s up to you! There is no general rule of thumb regarding how you bill for travel time and expenses but I’ll tell you how I do it…and why.
Travel Time – I bill travel time for my credit expert witness work at the same hourly rate as my non-testimony time. And, when I’m traveling on behalf of my client I try very hard to work on their case at the same time I’m traveling. As most of my credit damage expert witness travel time is on an airplane, that means reading over case documents or expert reports while I’m at 30,000 feet. I bill using the “portal to portal minus delays” formula. I didn’t make that up. This was a suggestion by a member of the California Bar Association. It works like this…if it takes you 9 hours to make it from point A (origination) to point B (destination) then you bill for 9 hours times your hourly rate, minus any delays in time. If you circled Los Angeles for an hour because of bad weather then I back that out because it’s certainly not my client’s problem that we were delayed. Additionally, if I work on another client’s case while I’m traveling then I do NOT double bill my time to both clients. I only bill the client who is getting my undivided attention. This seems fair to me.
Travel Expenses – I’m not aware of any sort of expert witness industry standard to travel expenses but I do require all of my travel to be paid for by my client. Now, I don’t ask for First Class travel but I do ask for Coach. And, if the difference in the price is close then I’ll actually travel first class and just expense the coach equivalent. I’m in Atlanta and I do a lot of work for California based clients. Trust me, it’s worth absorbing the difference between first class and coach. When it comes to hotels, I always choose a reputable name brand hotel like Hilton, Sheraton, Embassy Suites, or the like. I’ve never been asked to stay at a discount rate hotel, thankfully.
At the end of the day it’s your expert witness business and what you choose to ask for is completely up to you. If you want your full rate for travel then ask for it. If your prospect doesn’t want to pay for it, then negotiate.