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D.C. Circuit Takes on Attorney Fee Disputes

April 28, 2010 | Posted in : Fee Agreement, Fee Dispute, Fee Dispute Litigation / ADR, Fee Issues on Appeal, Hourly Rates

A recent BLT Blog post, “D.C. Circuit Gets Interested in Fee Disputes” reports that the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals currently has two fee dispute cases before it.  In D.C., bar rules generally require lawyers to arbitrate fee disputes at the client’s request before the D.C. Attorney/Client Arbitration Board.  But now, two cases are before the D.C. Circuit.  The first is a dispute between Zuckerman Spaeder and former client James Auffenberg, Jr.  The dispute centers around $843,000 in unpaid legal fees.  According to the engagement letter, Auffenberg agreed to pay partner Paula Junghans $675 per hour and an initial retainer of $100,000, which was to be replenished monthly.  The letter also lists ranges of hourly rates for each class of timekeepers at Zuckerman: Partners charged $365 to $825; associates $200 to $475; and legal assistants $145 to $265.  Auffenberg agreed to raise the retainer to $500,000, but only agreed to pay the firm a total of $1.5 million.  According to the complaint, the firm improperly exceeded that amount by $843,000.

The other fee dispute now before the D.C. Circuit pits Winston & Strawn against its former clients Harold Doley and Doley Securities.