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The Nation’s Top Attorney Fee Experts of 2018

May 10, 2018

Every year, NALFA, a non-profit group, announces the nation’s top attorney fee experts.  Attorney fee experts are judicially qualified experts who provide expert testimony and reports on the reasonableness of attorney fees and expenses in underlying cases.  Attorney fee experts are increasingly retained by fee-seeking or fee-challenging parties in litigation to independently prove reasonable attorney fees and expenses.

Our attorney fee experts also include court adjuncts such as bankruptcy fee examiners, special fee masters, and fee dispute neutrals.  All our attorney fee experts have at least 5 years complex litigation and trial experience and adhere to the ethics of reviewing outside legal fees. 

NALFA helps organize and recognize qualified attorney fee experts from across the U.S. and around the globe.  The following profile quotes are based on bio, CV, case summaries, and case materials provided to NALFA.  Here are the nation’s top attorney fee experts of 2018:

John D. O’Connor: “Nation’s Top Attorney Fee Expert”
O’Connor & Associates
San Francisco, CA

Andre E. Jardini: “30 Years of Fee Audit and Expert Experience”
KPC Legal Audit Services
Glendale, CA

Stephen J. Herman: "Outstanding Skills Assessing Fees in Class Actions"
Herman Herman & Katz
New Orleans, LA

Gary E. Mason: “Highly Skilled on a Range of Fee and Billing Issues”
Whitfield Bryson & Mason
Washington, DC

Robert M. Fishman: "Nation's Top Bankruptcy Fee Examiner"
Fox Rothschild
Chicago, IL

Elise S. Frejka: "Widely Respected as a Bankruptcy Fee Examiner"
Frejka PLLC
New York , NY

Robert L. Kaufman: “Experienced on Cumis Counsel Fees and Billings”
Woodruff Spradlin & Smart
Costa Mesa, CA

Glenn Newberry: “Understands Fee and Billing Issues Across Borders”
Eversheds Sutherland
London, UK

George F. Indest: “Excellent on Attorney Fee Issues in Florida”
Health Law Firm
Altamore Springs, FL

Please note: NALFA did reach out to other self-identified attorney fee experts for this survey.  They did not respond to our requests.  For more on the Nation's Top Attorney Fees Experts, visit https://www.law.com/legalnewswire/news.php?news=eXBJV01pb2plTkQzR3NBOVY3SHJJZz09

NALFA Featured in ALM Article on Billing Rates

March 20, 2018

A recent Daily Business Review story by Samantha Joseph, “Spoiler Alert: Most of South Florida’s Top Law Firm Billers Are Men,” reports on gender disparity in billing rates in South Florida.   The story reads:

No one on the list is talking, but new research on billing rates speaks for itself: Most of the attorneys commanding top dollar in South Florida’s bankruptcy bar are men.

In the latest annual study of billing rates by ALM, the parent company of the Daily Business Review, only one woman appeared among the 10 highest South Florida billers: Leslie Cloyd, a Berger Singerman Boca Raton partner who represents debtors and others in complex Chapter 11 cases and workouts.

That’s no surprise to many who follow financial disparities in the industry.

“Law firms don’t want to admit it, but there is gender inequality,” said Terry Jesse, executive director of the National Association of Legal Fee Analysis, a nonprofit that undertakes fee analyses for courts and private clients. “People say, ‘We don’t do this at our law firm.’ They don’t see it, but it does come out in surveys.”

ALM researchers used federal court billing data from bankruptcy cases to compile compensation lists for attorneys and other billers in 20 U.S. jurisdictions. The top spot in this year’s South Florida data belonged to Paul Keenan, a Greenberg Traurig Miami shareholder shown charging $765 per hour to clients in the firm’s restructuring and bankruptcy practice.

At No. 2, Michael Goldberg of Akerman commands $655 per hour. Cloyd is next at $625 an hour, and is the only female attorney among the 34 lawyers in the ALM data who billed at more than $400 per hour. Her Berger Singerman colleague, Jordi Guso, showed a rate of $610 per hour.

Two Jacksonville attorneys billing $575 per hour, Guy Bennett Rubin and I. Mark Rubin, appear next on the list, trailed by David Softness of David R. Softness P.A. in Miami at $550; Peter Bernhardt of McDonald Hopkins in West Palm Beach at $530; and Jeffrey Bast of Bast Amron and Paul Singerman of Berger Singerman, each based in Miami and charging $525 per hour.

Rounding off the top 10 are Ehrenstein Charbonneau Calderin’s Robert Charbonneau and Seese P.A.’s Michael Seese, who each charge $515 for an hour’s wor

“Really Disheartening”

“Diversity is an important topic,” said Silvia Hodges Silverstein, executive director of New York-based Buying Legal Council, an international trade organization for legal procurement. “But until we had billing data that was also tracking gender, we really couldn’t say anything about it.”

Silverstein’s own research in March 2014 found similarly bleak results. At that time, she led a Sky Analytics Inc. national gender study based on $3.4 billion in corporate legal billings for 40,000 lawyers and time keepers across 3,000 law firms.

Her data uncovered “profound differences” between realized rates—the amount paid—for male and female attorneys at the same career level. Among her findings: Female associates made $27 less per hour on average than their male counterparts with similar experience.

“What was really disheartening was that you have the difference right out of law school, and it continues as women advance in their careers, even as they become equity partners,” said Silverstein, who now also lectures at Columbia Law School. “Women aren’t able to make up the difference over time. His hourly rate goes up. Hers goes up, but not as much.”

At the top of the profession, Silverstein’s research found six percent of male lawyers commanded more than $800 per hour, while only two percent of their female counterparts ever reach that rate. And no women in her data set surpassed the $1,000 hourly rate, while two percent of male lawyers did.

“The pay gap got even wider as attorneys moved up,” Silverstein said.

The good news: Silverstein found that women at small firms fared better than their counterparts in Big Law or at midsize firms. Lawyers at firms with 25 or fewer attorneys billed at the same rate for comparable work, and increased their prices at the same pace, regardless of gender.

NALFA’s Jesse attributed the difference to the “culture” at many big firms.

“There’s less gender inequality at the midsize and solo level,” he said.  “At the very large firms it’s just kind of a system. … A lot of it is task-based. Male partners are given more leadership roles in litigation, and female might be assigned lesser tasks—more research-based.”

Women’s Work

Joe Ankus, a Davie, Florida-based consultant who’s spent more than 20 years recruiting talent for law firms, said niche specialties are key when it comes to determining what attorneys can demand. He said years of specialization often separate the top billers from counterparts with lower asking rates.

“You need to be viewed as the go-to lawyer, or at least one of a handful of go-to lawyers,” said Ankus, president and founder of Ankus Consulting Inc. “The way to stay at the top: You can’t be a good practitioner. You must be excellent.”

A focus on debtor-side Chapter 11 work combined with related in and out-of-court restructuring expertise appears to have helped propel South Florida’s top female bankruptcy biller into the male-dominated top tier.

Cloyd and others named in the ALM billing data’s top 10 declined to comment or did not respond to requests. But Cloyd’s law firm profile shows her work has included serving as debtor’s counsel to Ruden McClosky in the law firm’s Chapter 11 case, representing Florida Power & Light in a Chapter 11 case filed by Gator Generating Corp., and representing tax collectors for Indian River, St. Lucie, St. John, Glades and Hendry Counties.

Beyond the realm of law firm partners like Cloyd, Silverstein’s data, which includes legal staffers as well as attorneys, showed that women were more likely than men to bill time for lower-skill tasks.

“What we found was that there were certain ‘female’ jobs and they were not necessarily strategic,” Silverstein said.

In analyzing standardized billing data using Uniform Task-Based Management System coding, Sky Analytics isolated litigation billing codes, or L-codes. It found female billers outnumbered male counterparts for codes indicating low-level tasks, such as data-processing, as opposed to administrative or investigative roles.

Plus, men staffed the majority of large projects requiring teams of at least 20 billers or timekeepers. They accounted for 93 percent of that litigation, while women shepherded smaller teams. While their male colleges handled large suits, female timekeepers made up the majority of workers assigned to 81 percent of small cases, according to the Sky research.

Silverstein’s data also showed women occupied entry-level positions, accounting for 75 percent of paralegals and 46 percent of associates, but only 22 percent of partners.

Firms “need to be mindful of how they staff matters,” Silverstein said. “Do they give women the same exposure to important matters as men?”

And even if they get the work, researchers say women face more pressure to discount their time—offering discounts on 37 percent of their bills, compared to 26 percent for men.

“Males in the legal profession are considerably more likely to bill through without any adjustments,” Silverstein said.

That’s good news, at least, for most of the South Florida attorneys on the billing list.

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 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....

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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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