Time b

Warning: some partners keep a very close eye on the time.

A newly-qualified solicitor has been struck off the roll after a partner discovered that he had been recording "inaccurate" and "misleading" time sheets.

Matthew Nester joined Hugh James Solicitors in July 2021, having just qualified. The NQ was six months into the job when a partner noticed that he had recorded 30 minutes of time for a quarterly file review, which was "unusual" as the file was closed and it was not Nester's role to conduct the review.

The partner held a meeting with Nester to question him about the time entry. The NQ forwarded a document supposedly showing the work done, but the partner noticed that it was created after their meeting.

The partner ran a time recording report for Nester, and the NQ fessed up to inaccurately recording seven and a half hours, across two days, for reviews on several files. 

Nester admitted other issues to the partner regarding his time recording, including that he had recorded excess time on a file and added entries for work that he had not undertaken.

The partner alerted HR, the firm fired Nester and reported him to the SRA, and the NQ also self-reported.

At the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing, Nester denied that his conduct was dishonest.  He said that, on the relevant days, he wasn't able to meet the target of six and a half chargeable hours, and so recorded the extra time. But he stated that he had intended to complete the work at a later date. 

Nester told the tribunal that he had acted "carelessly", as it was during the lockdown, and his children were also at home (because their schools had not re-opened), and he had to work in a communal area. 

It was also submitted in mitigation that no clients were charged, as the work recorded was for administrative matters that would not be charged to any client. However, the prosecutor submitted that Nester had conceded that some of the erroneous time he was recording was in fact for chargeable work, and might have been charged to clients if his supervisor hadn't queried the time sheets when he did.

The SRA stated the public would not expect a solicitor to "inflate or falsely record" their time spent working on a matter. The regulator said that Nester had "attempted to mislead" his firm and was "dishonest."  

The tribunal said that while it "did not doubt" that Nester intended to undertake the work "on some future date", it did not accept that when creating the time records, the lawyer "genuinely believed that it was permissible to record time for work that he had not done". 

The panel concluded that Nester was dishonest and had acted in a way to mislead his firm, and struck him off the roll. No order was made for costs. 

Tip Off ROF


Qanon Anon 22 March 24 08:40

And the SRA doesn't think this is rife across the profession? It's a clear, and expected, consequence of setting chargeable hour targets that a junior fee earner has no means of controlling, and giving bonuses to those that exceed them.  Ridiculous 

Barney 22 March 24 08:40

Shocking decision. Also 6.5 hrs chargeable at a small regional firm? City-level beasting with none of the dolla to show for it.

Baffled 22 March 24 09:03

If this punishment was equally applied those who practice in London city law firms I imagine a huge chunk of the legal profession  would be struck off. One of the reasons I moved in house was the absolute lack of integrity of some partners I worked with who treated clients like cash cows - charging for non existent work and creating utterly pointless 'file reviews' to pad junior hours that they knew the client would never question. I was told 'these partners need to feed their families and keep the firm going' - I considered it theft.  

Ridiculous hours 22 March 24 09:04

Madness. I tell my team that they are at capacity and not to take on more work if they regularly record more than 5 hours chargeable a day - and I am a partner at a City firm with a team of five juniors.

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:05

This is ridiculous. I know for a fact that there is a massive time dumper at partner level at my firm (a top 20) and she gets away with it because she runs the billing guide, negotiates the fee with the client and submits the bill to accounts.  Us juniors see the realisation rate of our honestly recorded time diminished whilst said partner gets away scot free with a hefty bonus for all her hard work (cough).  But the SRA are blinkered to such goings on as they are too busy striking off stressed out NQs who are having to compensate for such nobheads at partner level. For as long as the client is happy with the fee, management turn a blind eye to the manipulation of the billing guide and fake time recording by dishonest, passive aggressive partner who will happily throw "minion" solicitors working for her under a bus!  Wake up and smell the coffee SRA!! 

The Vivienne 22 March 24 09:11

Last week someone who couldn’t spell Turkeys posed the question: why should anyone care about the partners from BLM?  Answer. They shouldn’t.  However people should care about the more vulnerable employees of that business. Take the support staff as an example. This week they have been told that their jobs don’t exist anymore. Their busy roles don’t exist but some shiny new Clyde’s roles do. Similar title, same work oh and one catch. Yeah it’s less money!  You see Clyde’s think you have no choice but to agree to a pay cut because you will want to work for Clyde’s.  My advice. Follow the path taken by the SP’s. They didn’t stick around and nor should you.   Disease and casualty you are next by the way.  It has already been decreed.  Why is all this happening?  Well some bean counter at Clyde’s wants to show a return on investment from BLM.

Top 20 firm 22 March 24 09:12

I remember working for a top 20 firm and a partner would regularly time dump.  I knew he was dumping as the files with the evidence were by my desk.  Another associate went to the head of the office to report this on her files.  Head of office told her to turn around and never mention this again.  

Anon 22 March 24 09:14

Dishonesty should as a rule get you struck off as a solicitor. I am only surprised that the individual did not concoct a mental wellbeing defence, which might have given him a better chance. 

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:18

That partner really didn't like the NQ by the sound of it. The error by the NQ was the false attendance notes.   Inflated time recording is rife.   But thinking time is recoverable and that is very difficult to attack as  consideration levels differ depending on the fee earner. A minor defence could take 1 person 15 mins whereas another could take twice as long 

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:19

And meanwhile the lawyers (solicitors and barristers alike) acting for the Post Office quite clearly cut corners/abused their position in their conduct, manipulating the weighty coffers of the Post Office against the unwitting sub-postmasters' financial dire straits. Instead of applying the law to get to the honest truth, they saw "£" signs and promotions etc.  WHERE ARE YOU SRA???  Yep, keep concentrating your efforts on hanging out to dry the stressed out junior lawyers who added a couple of hours here and there. What a way to roll!

Fee pad 22 March 24 09:26

Lawyer fee padding has been going on since time immemorial and seems to be tolerated as legalised theft or fraud effectively and so why is this bloke’s (possibly isolated and one-off) transgression worse than that other widespread practice (which obviously happens on a much larger scale)?

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:28

Striking off this guy off does seem disproportionate given the mitigating circumstances here. A severe reprimand and close monitoring going forward, yes. Ruining his career and livelihood, no. 

US Firms 22 March 24 09:32

The SRA should get under the hood of the billing practices at US firms in London ... it's totally nuts.

Anonymous 22 March 24 09:41

I suspect there's probably more to this story - IME across a number of firms, 'inaccurate' time recording by juniors is fairly common, but usually they're given further training on the correct approach to time recording and then monitored for a while. 


It was a regular occurence in insurance firms - just wait until their insurer clients realise the 'file reviews' and 'MI reviews' are basically ways to generate bogus fees...


Agree the nail was probably the 'after-the-event' file notes, rather than the actual time recording. 


Also agree that 'time dumping' by partners without sanction is common across the profession.

Big Firm 22 March 24 09:49

Rampant.  Knew a corporate partner who was notorious for his 5 hour time dumps on deals.  Always  5 hours.  Entire department knew he was not doing the work.  K  It's fundamentally dishonest but a blind eye is turned.  We then get given grief by being out by 0.1 increments / inconsistencies on time recording on calls by pedantic clients which the same partners treat as "very serious".

Arachnae 22 March 24 09:55

My old gaffe, the client partner (I was billing partner of the construction file) used to cancel half my recorded time and attribute it to himself. Wonder what the SRA would have done if I’d reported him. 

Roscoe P. Coltrane 22 March 24 10:04

Boston Legal's Denny Crane said that he hates all his clients, that way he can overcharge them and still sleep at night...


...but seriously, partners routinely dump significant amounts of time (for "supervision") on files on which they have no/minimal involvement... 

depends on practice area 22 March 24 10:09

the nuance and info that's missing from the story and some of the comments is what sort of client files time was being created on. Being overly generous on a corporate mega-deal where the in-house clients accepted an unrealistic fee quote that was then exceeeded by a factor of 3 because of scope and time creep (and where clients will review the narratives in detail or not care given the legal fees are seen as a cost of doing business) while still dishonest, is less bad than fake time entries on a fixed fee for a private client in the south wales valleys who may not be as proficient in dealing with lawyers and challenging invoices etc....


agree that US firm practices are particularly galling - doiing a deal across from a well-know US firm the over-lawyering of calls was really blatant (despite the fact only 2 of the 7 lawyers on the call were close to the particular workstream). 

An ordinary biscuit tin 22 March 24 10:11

Am I the only one who thinks the NQ is in the wrong?

Maybe being struck off is a bit harsh but from the Legal Cheek article on this I thought this related to non chargeable time (that really would be an outrage) 

But this NQ created fake time entires (of multiple hours) against a client. Then when caught out he continued to be dishonest and tried to deceive the partner by then creating the work he recorded as being already completed.

Charging hours against a client when you haven’t even done a minute of that specific work does seem pretty bad

USA 22 March 24 10:11

The US firms get away with time dumping because their megacorp clients won’t even look at the time entries and will just pay the invoice without thinking twice.  

Anon 22 March 24 10:27

A lot of people defending this guy, but not being funny - he was sufficiently short on work that there wasn't 6.5 hours work to do (9:30 - 5:30 is 8 hours). If you assume the 7.5 hours of padded time took him to 13 hours across the two days, it follows that he only did 5.5 hours across two days - so his "explanation" that he was planning to do the work later he just didn't get round to it seems suspect.  Ultimately he did about 2 and a half hours billable each day in question and then lied about it.

Now I'm not saying this is a heinous crime (and list of well resourced City partners that get away with much worse is lengthy) but I personally wouldn't want this guy to be my lawyer either.

The dark arts 22 March 24 10:34

I left my previous firm after I partner apportioned a good chunk of my fees to himself for acting for a celeb client. He also the  w/o a load of time so that he could claim to best mates with said celeb. Worst part is he did sod all on the job other than talk to the press at the end! 

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:37

A partner in a different team at a large international firm once told me that because the client always asked for a discount, he would uplift the WIP so that after the “discount” he could bill full WIP. I wasn’t surprised it happened, but was surprised the partner said it as if there was no issue. 

In house 22 March 24 10:44

I was in house for many years in financial services.  When people in the business instructed external lawyers to produce the lending packs they never, ever checked the bills.  I decided to go do some file reviews (Top 15 firm).  They'd billed £20k for a standard suite of lending documents.  I managed to find £2k of properly billed time.  This was replicated across almost every file.


I've also worked in Top 20 firms as everyone else above has.  Unless we've all worked for the same firm and the same partners then it appears time dumping is endemic.  I hope someone from the SRA is reading this and decides to do something about it.  The fact that the first item in every team meeting is billing and nothing else matters means that people will always meet the target, even if they are putting down 5 units instead of the properly incurred 2 units.


The whole firm had training on time recording.  There were no slides and no handout! We were told, if you think about a file in the shower then when you log on you put down the time in the shower.


On the NQ in the story.  The firm should have just given him a telling off.  Dobbing him in seems a little harsh.  The striking off is incredibly harsh.  As someone above commented, if that sanction were applied across the top firms there would be very few people left with a practising certificate.

Anonymous 22 March 24 10:50

10:27 - You muppet.  Do you actually have a life? Unless you work on massive, all time consuming transactions, a lawyer working on multiple files in a smaller firm with limited support and working under a "chip on their shoulder" partner is inevitably going to spend more non-billable time than they should.   

Orange Bandanna 22 March 24 10:57


He was clearly in the wrong but this decision doesn't sit right with me. A junior lawyer and father of young children has been struck off at the very beginning of his career for being caught doing something which is widespread across the profession.

I remember when I was a trainee there was a partner who would regularly say to anyone who stood still for long enough that if you are thinking about your client whilst taking a leisurely shit, you can bill the client for that time.

This person will no doubt have spent his training contract and the brief time he was practising as an NQ seeing far more senior lawyers inflating their time sheets in much worse ways and getting away with it, leading to a belief that this was OK, or at least, if not OK, that everyone does it and there are no consequences.

Inflating timesheets is an endemic problem in private practice which needs to be tackled across the profession as a whole. Making an example of one young lawyer and ending his career isn't going to stop the rot.

Anon 22 March 24 11:05

The SRA reckons the public doesn't expect lawyers to inflate how long it takes to do thing? 


Office Drone 22 March 24 11:06

I agree with An ordinary biscuit tin at 10:11 above. The strike off decision is harsh and time dumping / file padding is rife in the City. But the NQ was wrong and he reached the point of no return when he continued lying and fabricating a document even after the initial chat with the partner querying his time recording.

You can often still recover from a "panic lie" if you retract immediately and genuinely come clean (+ there's not much worse coming out the woodwork). But how do you trust someone again who tried to keep the lie up even after being caught out? 

Anon 22 March 24 11:16

The decision is harsh. We’re the firm’s recording time procedures and training investigated? A lot of the trainees and juniors learn them recording habits from their seniors. And we all know law firms are rife with over recording time when they can get away with it. 

Yet some ppl can steal 66m from clients and still walk free. 

Dayglo Dave 22 March 24 11:25

I am surprised by some of the comments on this thread.  It's pretty obvious to me that falsely recording chargeable time is a fraud.  I don't understand why people are so lenient about such a crime.  Just because it goes on in, it seems, some top firms, does not excuse the behaviour.


Don't those who know about it have a professional duty to report such unprofessional misconduct?  If the SRA wants to do something really useful, by way of a change, how about investigating this very important subject?

Paul 22 March 24 11:35

A question for the legal ethics experts - if I have a dream about doing client work for an hour, can I record an hour of time even if the dream only lasted a few seconds?

Anonymous 22 March 24 12:11

"Reviewing file and correspondence" always a good one for some extra time. What's your go-to narrative for padding?

papercuts 22 March 24 12:45

Firm creates system which makes this likely.  Warning should suffice, surely.  Poor guy.   

Anonymous 22 March 24 12:59

What lawyers say and mean are different things. 

Perusing file = Researching who to put in my Fantasy Football team.

SecularJurist 22 March 24 13:24

This is indeed disproportionate.

The seniors are miffed that this junior-minion had the gall to time-dump on a file or on which he wasn't permitted to touch.

Indeed, why didn't the partner simply attribute the time go himself, slap the guy's wrist then show him the proper way to grift.


This story deserves wider circulation in the mainstream press as clients, even the khoonty ones, deserve to know what really goes on in PP.


The reality is, talented juniors who bend the rules (unlike seniors) get dumped in Doc Review, like Kim Wexler, and the seniors like Howard Hamlin get the fees and credit.


Just goes to show that one is better off being Jimmy McGill.

Anon 22 March 24 13:50

Knew a guy who got the sack for dumping 200 hours in a single day at the end of the financial year in order to hit his annual target. Not sure how he thought he’d get away with it… moment of madness maybe. Think he was a paralegal so no regulatory reprimand, just canned by firm. 

Anonymous 22 March 24 13:58

I agree with the general view that this is a very harsh outcome to take a career away; particularly where "the system" in this case appears to have worked and therefore no client was compromised. 

There was some compounding of the original error by then seeking to cover it up: a lie, upon a lie.  Not good; but you can imagine the abject terror and realisation that this poor sod would have gone through and, while I do not condone his actions, they are understandable.  It could instead have been treated as a learning opportunity, and is a missed opportunity to create a lawyer who's billing practices would forevermore be squeaky clean or, if not, second strike and you are out...  

There is absolutely regular over-billing, particularly by partners (who seem to think in half-hour, rather than 6-minute units) and the "arse-licker" associates who seem to be in the office just as long as you, but somehow have 2,000 hours and a bonus when you don't... we all know who you are !

Anonymous 22 March 24 14:47

An associate where I used to work, would have creative narratives on a busy file as he knew neither his supervisor or the client ever read it - like a school kid putting a swear word in their homework, knowing the teacher would still just put a tick in the margin.  

He proudly showed us some entries on the system, which I remember had ones like: 

Bamboozling Counsel with long submissions - 3 units.  

Telecon with Flimflamming oppo lawyers - 2 units.  

Skedaddling away from client lunch meeting - 1 unit. 

Roscoe P. Coltrane 22 March 24 15:18

Now that the SRA has shown their willingness to strike off for this, perhaps every lawyer should keep a dossier of evidence of overcharging to keep in case ever needed for leverage/revenge...

Roscoe P. Coltrane 22 March 24 15:27

Re Anon 22 March 24 13:50, that guy "who got the sack for dumping 200 hours in a single day at the end of the financial year" is a rank amateur...your timedump mustn't result in more than about 17 hours/day (13 on Sat/Sun) otherwise it's too obvious. Although, if the last 2 months of the financial year end up with twice the monthly billings of the other 10 months, it looks slightly suspicious...but if the clients pay, the EPs are happy!

Anonymous 22 March 24 16:38

Just realised the partner who told me she used to bill 22 hours a day might be a fraud. How disappointing.

Anon at a US firm 22 March 24 16:49

The majority of us underbill, so not entirely clear where the rumour that US firms are padding their hours comes from.

Anonymous 22 March 24 17:04

If you actually read the judgment in this case it paints a very different picture to padding a timesheet. He didn't record 20 units on a task that should have taken him 10 (which is what I would consider to be 'padding'), he actually just made up and recorded 5 units of time each for file reviews on multiple different files - tasks that he hadn't done, and weren't part of his role to do, because he knew he hadn't met his chargeable time targets for the day. (And a file review is not a chargeable task anyway.)  Then, as posters above have said, he doubled down on it by creating attendance notes after he was challenged, and pretending that he intended to do the file reviews later and would have done so if he hadn't been dismissed. To me, that is much more dishonest than the person who takes a bit too long drafting a document. 

As always, it's never the mistake/problem which gets you fired/struck off - it's always the cover up. As if his supervisors really would've cared that much that he didn't meet his chargeable time target for 2 days in the midst of Covid. 

Antiquated outdated clocking in 22 March 24 18:19

Account for each 6 minute unit of your life.

What a load of balls.

What a waste of time.

What a Victorian way to track productivity.

Move with the times law firms. Show some creativity. 

Anon 22 March 24 18:28

The Vivienne. I can’t spell Turkey, but at least I know how to use an apostrophe, I think. 

Anonymous 22 March 24 18:35

@Anonymous 22 March 24 16:38


As a US BigLaw Partner that frequently bills 18+ hours a day, plus completing BD and Mentoring and Invoicing on top (leaving very little time for sleep, exercise or anything which is not for the furtherment of the Firm...) - don't lose faith! 

She almost certainly hates her predicament as much as I do!

Anonymous Anonymous 22 March 24 18:45

Would AI legal staff and Robots be struck off?

Any type of fraud should be investigated and punished.

The legal profession should have high standards.
Another example of giving the legal profession a bad name.

Anon 22 March 24 20:27

For the public to be able to participate in a society which chooses to deal with disputes and other matters by having laws, then lawyers are key to that, and if you allow trust in the profession to be damaged by dishonest lawyers such that some members of the public won't use lawyers, you're stopping them participating in society.  That's what is at the heart of all this.  The SRA are really worried about the reputation of the profession and this person was stupid and dishonest and had to be struck off.  Simple as that.  

Billing Assistant 22 March 24 20:50

Many years ago I was the billing assistant in various law firms. The perennial problem was the over and under recording of time by fee earners of all grades. The situation above smacks of lack of guidance or adequate supervision.

Anon 23 March 24 09:45

I understand that conveyancing is often charged as a fixed fee. Why cannot other fees be charged at fixed fees, so that the client knows where they stand. If the solicitor is slow, who cares, but those who are efficient can finish the job in the time frame and enjoy their leisure time. The SRA needs to propose more fixed fees or a cap on fees, to prevent excessive charges and to prevent fraud of time sheets.  

As a client I have been scammed many times by unscrupulous solicitors, and where I was charged for negotiations that I carried out myself, as the solicitors had believed that I was not active in my own case, and once challenged had no choice but to waive the fees or face investigation, but still overcharged me. There does need to be a shake up, and soon, and the SRA need to get a spine and confront these issues, now that the genie is out of the bottle. 

Inside track 24 March 24 13:44

Not good for anyone currently under SRA investigation for overcharging. I know at least such person in the north West current under investigation for that. 

Human 26 March 24 09:52

I think what this comes down to is that casual dishonesty is so endemic in society, it must be judged by what is socially normative for a test of dishonesty to be meaningful (Gentings Casinos). 

It seems to me that minor time sheet fraud, is, like a somewhat embellished CV, socially normal and therefore not dishonesty for legal purposes. I think this guy should explore avenues of appeal.

City No More 26 March 24 11:26

I was at major US and UK international firms for many years. Padding of time is absolutely endemic from the most senior partners down. Particularly in US firms where eligibility for (very large) bonuses for associates kicks in at 2,000 billable hours, guess what happens with associate time-recording.....As a client I would definitely not accept hourly billing from these firms - I know that they would be ripping me off something rotten. If the SRA is serious about dishonesty and time-recording, this is where it should look - not some NQ at a firm in Cardiff. I am not for a moment condoning dishonesty, but the SRA decision is overly  harsh against what we all know goes on in the profession at large and has led to situation where NQ couldn't even pay his costs order. 

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