A recent Reuters story by David Thomas, “Ex-Client Wans $22 mln From Brown Rudnick, Saying Lawyers Overbilled” reports that an Austrian multinational construction company went on the offensive in a fee dispute with U.S. law firm Brown Rudnick, claiming the firm routinely overbilled it and demanding $22 million. Brown Rudnick sued Christof Industries Global GmbH in September, alleging the industrial plant builder owed $8 million in attorney fees and interest from an international arbitration over a failed construction project.
But the law firm racked up more than $6 million in fees after promising in writing to not exceed a $2 million fee estimate, Christof alleged in its countersuit, filed in Boston federal court. The law firm improperly overbilled, Christof alleged, saying one attorney billed more than $145,000 for 231 hours preparing to examine one witness. The law firm billed more than 40 hours for assembling binders, the company said.
"In a number of time entries that verge on satire, Brown Rudnick attorneys even billed for drafting and corresponding about a proposal for their 'binder compilation strategy,'" Christof said in its suit.
The dispute stems from Brown Rudnick's work arbitrating a conflict arising from a Christof subsidiary's work as a contractor during the construction of a fiberboard production plant in South Carolina. Christof said it signed an agreement with the firm so that its legal costs would not exceed $40,000 a month, plus a $200,000 retainer up front. But it said Brown Rudnick billed more than $250,000, not including the retainer, just in its first month.
A panel awarded Christof more than $24.5 million in damages in the underlying arbitration, which was offset by about $20 million in advanced contract payments the company had received. The final award was for $6.68 million.