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Judge Trims Attorney Fees in Apple-Samsung Case

November 9, 2012 | Posted in : Billing Practices, Fee Reduction, Hourly Rate Survey, Hourly Rates, Lawyering

A recent The Recorder story, “Grewal Takes Red Pen to Legal Bills in Apple-Samsung Feud,” reports that U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ordered Samsung Electronics Co. to pay $21,554 to Apple Inc. and Apple to pay $160,069 to Samsung as sanctions for separate discovery violations in their epic patent suit, Apple v. Samsung.  To arrive at his sums, the San Jose magistrate slashed the hourly rates sought by Samsung’s lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, which exceeded the rates requested by Apple’s lawyers at Morrison & Foerster.

It was clear from his 21-page-order (pdf) that Grewal, a former IP litigator, also had a sharp eye on sloppy billing practices.  “Unfortunately, despite two opportunities to submit detailed and accurate supporting invoices, the parties have left the court to parse through bare descriptions of their attorney activities,” Grewal scolded.  The magistrate appointed in 2010, specifically took issue with block billing that failed to detail how attorneys spent the hours they worked and with apparent overstaffing.

Grewal noted that one Quinn Emanuel associate billed 93.5 hours for “substantial assistance with all aspects of the preparation” of pleadings from Samsung.  “How were those hours divided among the various tasks?” Grewal wrote.  “Is it reasonable that [the associate] spent nearly two work weeks on a motion for sanctions when two partners, three other associates and innumerable contract attorneys were also staffed on the motion?  The court can only guess at the answers to those questions because Samsung offers only the barest description of the activities.

Grewal also scrutinized 50 hours of work billed at $1,035 an hour by London-based Quinn Emanuel partner Marc Becker.  “The court tends to find it unreasonable that a partner with almost 25 years of experience needed 50 hours to draft a 14-page motion and to review a 15-page reply, especially when five associates also billed 85.8 hours for the same motion,” Grewal wrote.  Becker’s hourly rate fee settled at $800, after Grewal deflated his firm’s rates based on an annual survey from the American Intellectual Property Law Association.  The highest hourly rate from a Quinn Emanuel associate was reduced from $620 to $470.