Time is Money: Controlling Attorneys’ Fees

Following a New York Fair Labor Standards Act class action, which was settled in January, Chief U.S. District Judge William Skretny entered an order on September 18, 2013, reducing the requested attorneys’ fees by nearly half. The judge found that billing $550.00 per hour was not reasonable under the lodestar method of calculating attorneys’ fees in the district. Judge Skretny reduced the total bill for attorneys’ fees from $138,000.00 to $78,817.63 and commented on the inappropriate administrative charges and questionable billing for conferences.

The court was particularly disturbed by one of the bills produced by Getman & Sweeney, the law firm suspected of overbilling. The firm billed at a rate of $200.00 per hour for work performed by a newly licensed attorney. This raised some red flags because a majority of these hours were billed before the attorney became licensed.

Amongst the red flags is a possible violation of ABA Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5, which governs attorneys’ fees. Though the partners’ request for fees of $550.00 per hour may have been reasonable based on their expertise and experience, the $200.00 per hour fees charged for work performed by the newly licensed attorney, much of which was completed before she passed the bar, were considered to be unreasonable.

Click here to read some commentary on the case.

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