Virtuous Billing

33 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2015 Last revised: 3 Nov 2015

See all articles by Randy Gordon

Randy Gordon

Texas A&M University School of Law; Barnes & Thornburg LLP

Nancy B. Rapoport

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

Date Written: October 8, 2015


Aristotle tells us, in his Nicomachean Ethics, that we become ethical by building good habits and we become unethical by building bad habits: “excellence of character results from habit, whence it has acquired its name (êthikê) by a slight modification of the word ethos (habit).” Excellence of character comes from following the right habits. Thinking of ethics as habit-forming may sound unusual to the modern mind, but not to Aristotle or the medieval thinkers who grew up in his long shadow. “Habit” in Greek is “ethos,” from which we get our modern word, “ethical.” In Latin, habits are moralis, which gives us the word, “moral.” Aristotle explains that we cannot alter nature by practice: we cannot teach or train a rock to roll up a hill no matter how often we throw it up. But we can alter ourselves by practice. We can train ourselves to be ethical by practice, just as we learn to play the harp by practice.

It is a timeless adage that when analyzing the unacceptable behavior of others, one should never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

This essay applies classics ethics analysis and social science principles to ask whether we can find ways to improve billing behavior in law firms.

Keywords: ethics, philosophy, legal ethics, billing, fees, billing judgement, social science, law firms

JEL Classification: K1, K10, K19, K20, K29, K40

Suggested Citation

Gordon, Randy and Rapoport, Nancy B., Virtuous Billing (October 8, 2015). Nevada Law Journal, Vol. 15, 2015; UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Randy Gordon

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX 76102
United States
817-212-3941 (Phone)


Barnes & Thornburg LLP ( email )

2121 N Pearl St
Suite 700
Dallas, TX 75201
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Nancy B. Rapoport (Contact Author)

University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law ( email )

4505 S. Maryland Parkway
Box 451003
Las Vegas, NV 89154-1003
United States
713-202-1881 (Phone)
702-895-2482 (Fax)


Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics