Study: Many law students consider falsifying billed hours

Almost one in four law student respondents in England and Wales would consider dishonestly billing additional hours for a bonus.

Study: Many law students consider falsifying billed hours
One in four law students would be willing in theory to consider being dishonest and billing additional hours for a bonus, new research has found.
In the paper The ethical identity of law students published in the latest edition of the International Journal of the Legal Profession, a group led by University College London Law and Professional Ethics Professor Richard Moorhead surveyed 441 students studying in England and Wales and 569 students studying in the US.
In a hypothetical situation, the respondents were asked to picture themselves as a lawyer consulting on a project who is completing a time sheet that will determine whether they would receive a £3,000 / $5,000 bonus.
In the situation, the lawyer is short 5 hours of the 500 billable hours necessary for the bonus, but they could bill 5 additional hours spent on a training course, though against company policy, without anyone finding out.
Respondents were asked how likely they are to bill the additional hours on a seven-point scale ranging from “very unlikely” to “very likely”.
The professor and co-authors Catrina Denvir, Rachel Cahill-O’Callaghan, Maryam Kouchakki and Stephen Galoob found that among UK students, 12% indicated “somewhat likely,” 8% indicated “likely” while 4% indicated “very likely” for a total of 24% or about one in four students who would consider falsifying billed hours to receive a bonus.

Among US students, 12% answered “somewhat likely,” 5% indicated “likely” while 3% indicated “very likely.”

Furthermore, the researchers noted that the figure may even be higher in reality.

“When we have presented these results to students and colleagues they suggest quite strongly that the results under-estimate the likelihood of unethical conduct,” they said.

“This intuitive response fits with the view that these findings would be subject to a bias which may inhibit admissions of likely unethical conduct, even though the survey is anonymous.”

The research also found that female law students showed more ethical conduct compared to male law students.
Female law students were also found to have a lower sense of entitlement and a stronger need to want to be seen as a moral individual.

Additionally, the researchers found that among the respondents, those who intended to practice business law had weaker ethical propensity than peers who wanted to enter civil service.

Related stories:
GCs increasingly face ethical dilemmas, survey finds
Rampant bullying widely tolerated in American BigLaws
Privilege boosts gender bias for law firm applicants

Free newsletter

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter service and we’ll keep you up-to-date with the latest breaking news, cutting edge opinion, and expert analysis affecting both your business and the industry as whole.

Please enter your email address below and click on Sign Up for daily newsletters from Australasian Lawyer.

Recent articles & video

Lander & Rogers beefs up technology and digital practice with new partner

MinterEllison comments on litigation funder regulations

New Jersey Supreme Court boots judge for misconduct

COVID-19 and Australian courts and legal bodies updates: 1 June

KWM helps industrial chemicals manufacturer cook up $600m in capital raising under COVID-19

New Hong Kong security law an “unconscionable” threat to judicial independence, says IBA

Most Read Articles

Clayton Utz senior associate applauds greater focus on diversity and inclusion

HSF pumps up global financial services regulatory team with new partner

G+T helps newly-listed maltster brew up first capital raising with “novel relief” from ASIC

Ashurst helps challenger bank gain unicorn status on $230m capital raising