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Category: NALFA News

NALFA Podcast with Glenn Newberry

March 9, 2018

NALFA continued its podcast series with an interview with Glenn Newberry.  Glenn Newberry is the Head of Costs Unit and Legal Director at Eversheds Sutherland International LLP in London.   He is a UK qualified Costs Lawyer where he is head of his firms’ litigation Costs team.  Glenn has earned a Certificate in Reasonable Attorneys and qualified for NALFA fellowship.  He is the first UK-based lawyer to gain this recognition.

In the podcast interview, Glenn talked about his early career as a cost draftsman and his work now as a qualified Costs Lawyers.  As the past editor of Costs Lawyer magazine, the podcast also included a discussion of the role of the UK Costs Lawyer and the work of the UK-based organization Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL).  The ACL and NALFA share many parallels.

NALFA hosts a podcast series on attorney fee and legal billing issues.  We talk with thought leaders throughout the legal profession.  “Glenn has an outstanding skill set for fee and costs issues in litigation in the UK, and through our programs, has gained even more insight on fee and billing issues in the U.S.,” said Terry Jesse, NALFA Executive Director.

To listen to the podcast, visit https://soundcloud.com/thenalfa/nalfa-podcast-interview-with-glenn-newberry

NALFA Podcast with Dr. Silvia Hodges Silverstein

March 6, 2018

NALFA continued its podcast series with an interview with Dr. Silvia Hodges Silverstein.  Dr. Silverstein is the Executive Director of Buying Legal Council, based in New York.  Buying Legal Council is an international trade organization for professionals tasked with sourcing of legal services and supplier management.  Their members work on the client side, hold procurement, operations or other in-house positions at their organizations.  They host conferences and programs throughout the world.

In the podcast interview, Dr. Silverstein talked about her background in academics, legal procurement, and law firm management in Europe and the U.S.  She has authored several articles and conducted numerous studies on a range of law firm management and legal procurement issues.  The podcast also included a discussion of her billing rate survey showing gender inequality in law firms.

NALFA hosts a podcast series on attorney fee and legal billing issues.  We talk with thought leaders throughout the legal profession.  “Dr. Silverstein is a pioneer of legal procurement and law firm management.  Her work at Buying Legal Council helps bring buyers and providers of legal services together with an emphasis on knowledge and performance,” said Terry Jesse, Executive Director of NALFA.

To listen to the podcast, visit https://soundcloud.com/thenalfa/podcast-interview-with-dr-silvia-hodges-silverstein

NALFA: The Case Against Serial Class Action Objectors

January 8, 2018

In theory, the goal of a class action objector is to obtain a greater monetary benefit to class members.  This can be done in one of two ways:  (1) increase the overall amount of the settlement; or (2) decrease the amount of attorney fees portion of the settlement.  But professional objectors almost never try to increase the size of the overall settlement and almost always try to decrease plaintiffs' attorney fees.  Why is that?

The current class action objector model is broken.  At NALFA, we’re advancing the following 10 reasons to oppose class action objectors:

  1. Professional Objectors Troll for Cases:  No one hires professional objectors.  They decide themselves what cases they want to appoint themselves to.  These class action trolls seek out these cases by trolling the internet for class action cases and class members.

  2. Professional Objectors Are Not Qualified Fee Experts:  Professional fee objectors are not judicially qualified fee experts.  They are not qualified attorney fee experts or experts on class action settlements.  Professional objectors are not qualified experts on the reasonableness of attorney fees or on class action settlements.  They have no expert witness or special master qualifications or credentials.

  3. Professional Objectors Are Bias:  Professional objectors are anti-class action.  They are critics of class action litigation and cy pres awards.  They hold a bias against the very nature of class actions.  With such a bias against class actions from the outset, class action settlement objectors cannot be viewed as independent or objective in their settlement analysis.  With such an axe to grind against class actions, professional objectors rarely work in good faith.

  4. Professional Objectors Lack Complex Mass Tort Experience:  Professional objectors lack experience in large, complex class action cases.  Professional objectors have not negotiated a large class action settlement for the plaintiffs’ or defense bar.  In short, their objections are not peer review driven.  Having someone object to a class action settlement, without sufficient settlement experience themselves, is like having a pre-med student criticizing a heart surgeon.

  5. Professional Objectors Do Low-Quality Work:  Dozens of courts have referred to the work of professional objectors as “meritless,” “frivolous” and “wasteful.”  Professional objectors file very general, low-grade, canned or boilerplate objections.  Indeed, broad statements about the impermissibility of excessive class counsel fees supported by citations to a few cases can be pasted into nearly any brief challenging a settlement.  Objector briefs are often cobbled together from stock parts.  They create their arguments out of whole cloth.  Indeed, professional objectors often resort to personal attacks against class counsel.  They cherry-pick their information and reason outside the mainstream of class action jurisprudence.

  6. Professional Objectors Interfere in the Settlement Process:  Professional objectors interfere with private parties negotiating a class action settlement in good faith. Their interference in the settlement process clog the courts and delay payments to class members.

  7. Professional Objectors Hide Behind Non-Profit Groups:  You know you’re a professional objector if you’ve established a non-profit group to provide you with a greater sense of creditability in class actions.  These groups provide objectors with a thin veil of legitimacy.  These non-profits groups help shield their private interests.  Examples of these groups include Center for Class Action Fairness, Class Action Fairness Group and Class Action Watch.

  8. Professional Objectors Demand A Payoff:  Professional objectors make money by holding up class action settlements.  Call it blackmail, extortion or a shakedown, professional objectors demand a payoff to withdraw their objections and appeals.  Professional objectors hijack the settlement process by strategically gaming the class action system not for the benefit of class members, but for their own financial gain.

  9. Professional Objectors Are Driven By Media Attention:  Aside from money, professional objectors are driven by media attention and/or a political cause.  Professional objectors are driven by their own personal interests, not the interests of class members.  With very little work, professional objectors get their name attached to large, successful class action cases.  These self-promotional objectors enjoy the media attention that these cases bring and take credit for settlements they had nothing to do with.  One would expect an objector who seeks to provide a greater monetary benefit to class members to have ties to consumer interest groups.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  Professional objectors have ties and affiliations to the tort reform lobby and corporate interest groups.

  10. Professional Objectors Ignore Principles of Our Free Market Economy:  Professional objectors ignore basic principles of our free market economy.  Risk is the most fundamental principle of our free market economy and no professional takes on the contingency fee risk than a plaintiffs’ lawyer.  Professional objectors bemoan “self-dealing” plaintiffs’ lawyers who seek “exorbitant fees,” but need to be reminded that’s part of our free market economy.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with lawyers making a lot of money in class actions.  That’s what our free market economy is all about.  There’s a trace of envy and spite in these types of objector arguments.

Well-known class actions objectors include Ted Frank of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, John Pentz of Class Action Fairness Group and Lawrence Schonbrun of Class Action Watch, Edward Siegel of Law Offices of Edward Siegel and Eduardo Cochran of Law Offices of Eduardo Cochran.

NALFA: Serial Class Action Objectors Not Qualified in Attorney Fee Analysis

January 5, 2018

A recent The Recorder story by Amanda Bronstad, “$38M Fee Request in Anthem Data Breach Settlement Under Scrutiny” reports that an objection says the fee request, which is 33 percent of the $115 million settlement, was “outrageous on its face” and should be closer to $13.8 million.

A prospective class member has objected to the Anthem data breach settlement, specifically criticizing a fee request of nearly $38 million, and planning to ask that a special master investigate the case for potential over-billing.

Class action critic Ted Frank, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Center for Class Action Fairness, filed the objection on Dec. 29 on behalf of Adam Schulman, who is an attorney at his Washington D.C. organization.  The objection said the fee request, which is 33 percent of the $115 million settlement  was “outrageous on its face” and should be closer to $13.8 million.  He particularly targeted the average $360 per hour rate for contract attorneys submitted by four lead plaintiffs firms, one of which is San Francisco’s Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein.  A special master in Boston is investigating Lieff Cabraser, along with two other law firms, for potential over-billing for staff attorneys in a $74.5 million fee request over securities class action settlements with State Street.  The special master’s report is due in March.  Frank said he planned to file a motion on Thursday asking that a special master be appointed in the Anthem case.

He wants a special master to look into “the same thing they’re investigating in State Street, which is why this billing happened and whether it’s appropriate and whether there was an attempt to mislead the court.”  He also questioned why 49 other firms not appointed by the court stood to earn a total of $13.6 million in fees and “whether there were side agreements to back scratch or trade favors in other MDLs to get work in this MDL.”

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who trimmed the number of plaintiffs firms appointed to lead the Anthem case, has scheduled a Feb. 1 hearing for final approval of the settlement in San Jose, California.  Two other objections were filed on Dec. 29 that also challenged the fee request, among other things.  Class counsel is expected to respond to the objections by Jan. 25.

Eve Cervantez, of San Francisco’s Altshuler Berzon, who is co-lead counsel in the case along with Andrew Friedman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington D.C., wrote in an email: “The three professional objectors made the same typical, boilerplate objections we often see in consumer class actions, and neglected the true value of the settlement to the class—protection of their personal data both by mandated improvements to Anthem’s cybersecurity to prevent future hacks, and by credit monitoring to prevent misuse of their personal data by the hackers that stole it.”

In the Anthem case, Koh preliminarily approved the settlement in August.  The deal provides two years of credit monitoring and identity protection services to more than 78 million people whose personal information was compromised in 2015.  It also provides a $15 million fund to pay costs that class members were forced to pay due to the breach, such as credit monitoring services and falsified tax returns.

In motions filed last month, the four lead plaintiffs firms defended their fee request as adequate compensation for obtaining the largest data breach settlement in history.  The case involved “massive discovery” and “complicated factual and legal research,” they wrote.  It also was “extraordinarily risky,” given that many data breach cases have been dismissed.  The fees also were reasonable given the total lodestar—or the amount billed multiplied by the hourly rate—was $37.8 million.  The hourly billing rates of partners were between $400 to $970—rates that Koh has approved in prior cases.

“There is no true comparator to this groundbreaking settlement,” Cervantez wrote.  “Other data breach cases have not resulted in common funds that come close to $115 million, nor have they included the comprehensive cybersecurity improvements mandated by this settlement, coupled with a major, quantifiable investment in cybersecurity.”

The other two objections, one filed by solo practitioners John Pentz in Massachusetts and Benjamin Nutley in California, and the other by a trio of law firms from Missouri and Colorado, raise additional concerns over the cash value of the settlement, a proposed $597,500 in incentive payments to 29 lead plaintiffs and a request on both sides to seal portions of the deal—in particular, the amount of money Anthem has agreed to spend on cybersecurity in the future.

Koh has slashed fee requests in past cases, some involving the same plaintiffs firms.  Last year, she cut fees in a $150 million settlement involving the poaching of animators at DreamWorks and The Walt Disney Co. to $13.8 million after finding the original $31.5 million request to be “unreasonably high.”  In that case, Koh relied on the billing records, concluding that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit’s 25 percent benchmark in class action settlements would result in a windfall to the three plaintiffs firms, which included Cohen Milstein.

NALFA Honors Bruce R. Meckler

January 2, 2018

NALFA hosts a podcast series on attorney fee issues.  In a special podcast, "NALFA Podcast No. 6: NALFA Honors Bruce R. Meckler", NALFA honors the work and legacy of founding member Bruce R. Meckler.  Hosted by Terry Jesse, NALFA Executive Director, the podcast shares thoughts and memories from his peers and fellow NALFA members.  The podcast also reflects on how Bruce helped shape the legal fee analysis profession.

Bruce Meckler passed away in November 2016.  Meckler grew up in Maryland and attended Bradley University in Peoria and John Marshall Law School in Chicago.  He began his legal career as a prosecutor in the Cook County State Attorney's Office then went to Pope & John before co-founding the firm that merged with Philadelphia-based Cozen O'Connor.  He served on the management committee and national board of directors at Cozen O'Connor.  He conducted more than 500 legal bill audits involving more than $5 billion in legal fees.

“Bruce Meckler was one of the pioneers of legal fee analysis and one of the nation’s top attorney fee experts.  At NALFA, we want to honor that legacy.  He was widely respected by his peers and colleagues from across the legal fee analysis field.  As one of the founding members of NALFA, Bruce not only supported our CLE programs, but he helped shape and establish our Best Practices in Legal Fee Analysis, the professional standards of legal fee analysis," said Terry Jesse.

NALFA hosts a podcast series on attorney fee issues.  We talk with thought leaders, attorney fee experts, and attorney fee newsmakers who've helped shape and influence the jurisprudence of reasonable attorney fees.  NALFA interviews members, faculty, fellows, and others to discuss a range of issues on attorney fee and legal billing matters.

CLICK HERE to listen to this podcast.

Top NALFA Headlines of 2017

December 29, 2017

NALFA had another successful year in 2017.  Here are the top ten news blog headlines on NALFA in 2017: Nation’s Top Attorney Fee Experts of 2017 NALFA Conducts Custom Hourly Rate Surveys Earn a...

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Top Attorney Fee Headlines of 2017

December 27, 2017

NALFA’s news blog covers news on attorney fee and legal billing matters.  2017 was a busy year for headlines on attorney fee issues.  Here are the top ten news blog headlines in 2017: Fee...

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NALFA Conducts Custom Hourly Rate Surveys

December 15, 2017

Hourly rates are the engine that drives attorney fees.  Hourly rates are the most important factor in determining attorney fee awards.  As such, establishing the prevailing market hourly rate is...

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