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Archive: 2009

An Increase in 2010 Hourly Rates? Get Ready For A Fight

December 28, 2009


A recent article, An Increase in Hourly Rates? Get Ready for a Fight in Corporate Counsel sees a fight looming over 2010 hourly rates. In the article, "Susan Blount, the general counsel of Prudential Financial sent a letter to 60 law firms the insurance giant uses regularly. The letter addressed the general economy and the need to cut costs, but one announcement stuck out: Prudential informed the firms that in calendar year 2010, the company expected to pay for legal services at 2008 hourly rates. It wasn't a request as much as a take it or leave it deal, Blount says."

"How hard will the law firms fight? Are they willing to lose client business in order to take a stand on rates? Paul Hurd, general counsel of Daimler Trucks North America, says only "a couple of the firms Diamler Trucks uses parted ways with the company over last year's rate cuts. Blount says none of the 60 firms Prudential contracts with have said "no thanks" yet, though she says she is receiving letters from firms explaining why the proposed cuts shouldn't apply to them. "They are detailing why they are special", she says. But she is ready to defend the cuts. "We find ourselves at an economic crossroads in 2009," she says. "We have a special obligation to the company to be smart purchasers of legal services. We're not trying to undermine the economics of law firms. We are looking for the right way to get high quality work for our company at a reasonable price."

Six Basic Documents Supporting an Attorney Fee Award

December 15, 2009


To maximize the chances of success of a motion to obtain attorney's fees in the requested amount, the prevailing attorney always should present the following six basic supporting documents. The local jurisdiction may require others. However, even if not required, to maximize your chances of receiving the attorney fee award you want, always submit the following six basic supporting documents:

  • Time Records
  • Fee Agreement
  • Biographies of the Attorneys and Legal Assistants
  • Evidence of the Prevailing, Customary or Market, Hourly Rate
  • Factual Background and Opinion Given by a Primary Billing Attorney
  • Opinion of an Expert Witness

Source: Leonard Bucklin, Attorney Fee Awards

Red Flags of Excessive or Unreasonable Attorney Fees

November 30, 2009


Before agreeing to pay or reimburse an insured for defense costs incurred by it, the carrier is advised to look for a number of indices that typically portend unreasonable defense costs. These indices are often referred to as the "red flags" of excessive billing and include the enumerated items set out below:

•  Insufficient Detail/Vague Time Entries
•  Undisclosed Timekeepers
•  Block Billing
•  Minimum or Formula Time Charges
•  Unusual Number of Long Days
•  Multiple Billers/Duplication of Effort
•  Inefficient Staffing/Improper Delegation

Source: The Insurance Handbook On Insured-Selected Independent Counsel, Meckler Bulger Tilson Marick & Pearson

Opinions of Attorney Fee Experts

November 20, 2009


"Lay persons are not able to adjudicate the matter of reasonable attorney fee without the testimonial opinion of an expert. Even where a judge is the finder of fact of a reasonable fee, don't rely on the judge's expertise. The prevailing party, and the defending party, should make expert opinion available to the fact-finder.

An expert opinion needs to show the facts upon which the opinion is based. This factual description should start with a narrative of the nature of the case and the progression of events, including the number of hours spent, why and how various attorneys or legal assistants were used, and the hourly rates of attorneys and legal assistants. Then this opinion should summarize the factual consideratsions in all the factors that might involved in upward or downward adjustments to the fee from a lodestar amount. If the determination of the amount is to be by the court and it is ordered and stipulated to be on documentary evidence only, this factual description and the opinion can be a written affidavit. Otherwise, if the presentation is to a jury or with live testimony to a judge, oral testimony should be used."

Source: Leonard Bucklin, Attorney Fee Awards

Controlling Litigation Costs

November 16, 2009

  In a recent interview, "Contolling Litigation Costs", Brad Wright, Practice Manager for the Risk Management and Product Liability practice group at Roetzel and Andress discusses the...

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Attorney Fees Under Fire in Minnesota

November 6, 2009

  An article, "Attorney Fees Under Fire", in Minnesota Lawyer discusses proposed legislation that has riled plaintiffs' attorneys. The bill would require that where a statute provides...

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