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Assisting with High-Stakes Attorney Fee Disputes

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NALFA Launches Resource Center

January 26, 2015

NALFA has launched a resource center for our members.  This resource center will be the largest collection of attorney fee related material in the world.  NALFA is building this resource center to make our members the most informed on attorney fee and legal billing matters.  Our members will be encouraged to post their own materials and work product in this member resource center.  Indeed, this information sharing will raise the level of expertise among our members. 

This repository will include federal and state case law on an array of attorney fee issues.  It will also contain books, articles, law reviews, surveys, presentations, bar advisories, sample forms, podcasts, and more on a secure and searchable network.  Organized by category, our members will be able to access this valuable catalog of intelligence.  Since 2007, NALFA has accumulated volumes of substantive material related to a range of attorney fee and legal billing issues. 

“So far, our collection includes materials from our CLE programs, seminal case law, law review articles, reports, articles, and billing rate surveys.  We look forward to adding more attorney fee jurisprudence and attorney fee scholarship from across the nation and around the world to our resource center,” said Terry Jesse, Executive Director of NALFA.

NALFA Welcomes Alan Gray, Inc.

January 23, 2015

NALFA welcomes Alan Gray, Inc. to our membership.  NALFA certifies Alan Gray, Inc. as a qualified legal bill auditor.  Alan Gray, Inc. (AGI) is an international claims management and financial services firm headquartered in Boston, MA.  Since 1988, AGI has helped clients realize significant bottom line savings through its highly experienced technical staff, ability to adapt quickly to situational changes, and commitment to staying current with the latest industry information and advances in technology,

The Legal Invoice Audit Services of Alan Gray, Inc. provide invoice analysis, reconciliation and negotiation across a variety of industry sectors.  Reviews are performed by fully qualified attorneys who have both technical and professional expertise.  Typical clients include insurers, reinsurers, corporations and any organization with legal costs.

Additionally, Electronic Legal Auditing System (ELAS) designed by Alan Gray, Inc. is an automated online system created specifically for the review of legal invoices.  This dynamic web-based application, developed to accommodate LEDES formatted invoices, systemically reviews legal bills for adherence to pre-defined guidelines and rules.  Hosted by Alan Gray, Inc. in their secure data center, this system dramatically streamlines the legal invoice audit review process.

“We’re excited to have AGI in our membership.  AGI is a leader in the legal bill auditing profession and we and look forward to working with them, said Terry Jesse, Executive Director of NALFA.

For more on Alan Gray Inc., visit http://www.alangray.com

NJ Appeals Court Upholds Fee Reductions

January 22, 2015

A recent New Jersey Law Journal story, “Court OKs Slash of $94K Fee Application by More Than Half,” reports that even in a fee-shifting case, it’s permissible for a judge evaluating a fee application to consider what a client would be willing to pay for the engagement, a New Jersey appeals court said in upholding the fee reduction of a $94,000 fee application in a case that settled for $10,000.

“We conclude, even in the context of fee-shifting, a fee award should not be premised on a recoupment that would not have been the product of a rationally related fee agreement,” the Appellate Division said in Winyard v. 21st Century Leasing Corp.  The court added, “in an assessment of reasonable counsel fees, consideration whether a client would engage an attorney at the proposed rate is not wide of the mark.  Nor does it ‘amount to a clear error in judgment.’”

The parties litigated for three years before settling in December 2012, with 21st Century agreeing to pay $10,000.  Winyard’s counsel, Furst & Lurie of Montclair, NJ, then applied for $94,000 in fee and costs under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), which contains a fee-shifting clause.  The application sought fees at a rate of $475 an hour for partner Henry Furst, and $275 an hour for Joshua Lurie, then an associate, the opinion said.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, Union County Superior Court Judge Joseph Perfilio, in a February 2013 ruling, approved the hourly rates but deemed the overall amount excessive, ‘”given that this matter settled for $10,000[.]’”  Perfilio granted fees for some tasks—such as research, court appearances, trial preparation and settlement talks—but not others, such as regular communication with opposing counsel and intra-firm conferences.

Perfilio awarded a total of $46,620, less than half what was sought, and rejected Furst & Lurie’s request for a one-third fee enhancement.  Perfilio noted the argument that fee enhancement are provided for the CFA as a matter of public policy, in order to encourage lawyers to take cases they otherwise might not, but he found “no information to suggest a fear of nonpayment” in the case.

“Were this not a contingency matter plaintiff certainly would never have agreed to pay over $80,000 in a case that settled for $10,000,” Perfilio remarked.  Both sides appealed Perfilio’s decision.  21st Century called the fee excessive even in its reduced form, while Winyard challenged the fee reduction.

But Appellate Division Judges Clarkson Fisher Jr. and Thomas Manahan, in a per curiam decision, said they were “satisfied the judge’s approach ultimately produced a reasonable fee award.  “In reaching this conclusion, we do not detract from the competence of counsel and the manner in which they fulfilled their obligation to their client,” the panel said noting “the spirit of our Supreme Court’s declaration that ‘there is not precise formula’” to crafting fee awards.

Furst & Lurie said in a statement that the court “failed to recognize that attorneys in CFA cases are held to a different billing standard and act as ‘private attorney generals,’ not attorneys who are pursing private interests.  “The proper standard is the time that the attorney general would take to protect the public interest, not the amount of money that a private citizen would pay to pursue an ordinary commercial claim,” the statement said.

NALFA Visits Chief Judge Ruben Castillo

January 20, 2015

Today, NALFA visited the chambers of Chief Judge Ruben Castillo of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in the Everett Dirksen building in downtown Chicago.  The chief judge is the highest-ranking judge of the federal court.  As the chief judge, Judge Castillo has court administrative responsibilities, including presiding over meetings of district court judges.  NALFA presented Judge Castillo with our course book on attorney fee and legal billing matters.

“We want to build relationships with courts and judges throughout the U.S. and introduce them to NALFA’s membership,” said Terry Jesse, executive director of NALFA.  “Our members can assist courts on a range of attorney fee and legal billing matters.  We offer qualified special fee masters for MDL cases, qualified bankruptcy fee examiners for large, complex Chapter 11 cases, and a fee dispute mediation program that resolves attorney-client fee disputes in a cost effective and confidential manner,” Jesse concluded.

Fee Request Filed in MF Global Metals Settlement

January 15, 2015

A recent Law 360 story, “Atty Seek Fees in $27M MF Global Metals Settlement,” reports that attorneys representing plaintiffs in two class actions against MF Global Inc. asked a New York federal judge to approve attorneys’ fees, each equal to about a third of the funds they were able to secure for their clients in the $27 million settlement over price manipulation in the palladium and platinum markets.

Doyle Lowther, which represents the physical commodities investors, asked for about $4 million in fees and $229,230 in expenses.  Lovells Stewart Halebian Jacobson, which represents the futures defendants, requested 29.5 percent of yet-to-be determined common fund and $704,294 in expenses.  Both firms said that the amounts are warranted by the extraordinary amount of work they had to do and that the contingent risk they bore was much higher than in typical commodities manipulation case.

The settlements allow the futures plaintiffs to file a claim against MF Global’s estate valued at nearly $18.8 million and allow the physical commodities plaintiffs to file a more than $2.3 million claim.  The plaintiffs will receive a combined $5.25 million in cash, largely paid by MF Global’s insurer, and around $1 million for assigning their claims against former MF Global trader Joseph Welsh to the company.  The deal came a few months after Judge William Pauley gave preliminary approval to settlements with Welsh and hedge fund Moore Capital Management LP totaling nearly $100 million.

The plaintiffs, who sued after the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) made allegations of attempted manipulation in April 2010, had valued their claims against defendant Moore at higher than $400 million.  Moore paid $25 million to settle the CFTC action but did not admit wrongdoing.  The fund denies wrongdoing in this case and had pushed for the suit’s dismissal before it also agreed to settle this summer.

The case is In re Platinum and Palladium Commodities Litigation in the U.S. District Court fof the Southern District of New York.

Legal Fees Draw Scrutiny in Hospital Bankruptcy

January 14, 2015

A recent American Lawyer story, “Willkie Fees in Hospital Bankruptcy Draw Renewed Scrutiny,” reports that questions persist over the $15.3 million in fees and expenses paid out to law...

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Challenge to $30M Fee Award in Apple E-Book Price Fixing Settlement

January 12, 2015

A recent Law 360 story, “E-Books Buyer Appeals $30M Attys’ Fee Award in Apple Deal” reports that an e-book buyer lodged an appeal challenging the $30 million in attorneys’ fee...

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A Glimpse into Wachtell's Billing Structure in M&A Deals

January 8, 2015

A recent American Lawyer story, “A Glimpse into Wachtell’s Mysterious Billing Structure,” reports that Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz’s fee arrangements with clients have...

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NALFA Sets Dates for Attorney Fees Webinar Series

January 7, 2015

NALFA is hosting a series of webinars on attorney fee and legal billing issues throughout 2015.  These five 90-minute panel-style CLE programs will focus on each role within the attorney fee...

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NLJ Billing Survey: Hourly Rates on the Rise

January 5, 2015

A recent NLJ story, “Billing Rates Rise, Discounts Abound,” reports that, according to a recent NLJ billing survey, the price of hourly rates has risen by more than 10 percent in four...

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