What is a Bill of Costs?

A bill of costs is a detailed list of legal expenses. Such lists are used to provide clients with information about the costs associated with a suit and they are also submitted to the court in cases where a losing party is obligated to pay all or part of the legal costs of the winning party. This document may be prepared by an attorney or a member of an attorney's firm and includes an itemized discussion of all costs associated with the suit, broken down by type, with informative notes as necessary.

By reviewing the bill of costs, people can see how many hours an attorney spent on a case and they can also review travel expenses, costs for compensating expert witnesses, and other expenses associated with the trial. Notes may include more detailed discussions about individual costs, such as a note explaining why a trip was necessary. If clients have a dispute with any aspect of the bill, having an itemized bill of costs allows them to identify the area of concern so they can bring it up with the attorney.

In civil suits, many legal systems have a mechanism in place for forcing losers to compensate winners for their legal costs. The bill of costs must be submitted to the court within a set period of time so the judge can review it and determine which costs the loser should pay. Judges expect to see the costs clearly broken down and delineated so there can be no confusion about the expenses incurred by the winner in the costs of pursuing the trial.

Numerous fees are associated with court trials and they can rack up quickly. These include fees for filing fees, accessing records, researching, and reproducing documents. In addition to compensating the primary lawyer on the case, clients are also paying for paralegal services, as many attorneys rely on paralegals to help them with trial preparation and, in some cases, multiple attorneys may be involved in a case.

Software for legal invoicing is available and may be used by a law firm to generate generic bills of costs with all necessary information included. Firms can also adapt other invoicing software to suit their needs. One advantage to using software, other than a more professional appearance on finished products, is the ability to make sure a checklist is followed to get every billable item on the bill of costs, along with access to years of billing records so firms can track expenses and changes in billing practices.


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