March 3, 2014
Counsel must tread carefully when requesting legal fees. If the requested amount is not commensurate with the complexity of the litigation and local standards for the services provided, the attorney may find the request rejected entirely.
This may pose particular problems for large-firm attorneys practicing in “small” areas, as billing rates and practicing standards appropriate for complex litigation may not translate to smaller, simpler actions. A firm may find its request for fees, even if made in good-faith and reflecting the firm’s normal billing rate and method of practice, entirely rejected.
The recent decision in Clozel v. Jalisi is instructive in this regard. In Clozel, the judge harshly dismissed Mayer Brown, LLP’s request for approximately $126,000 in legal fees for a landlord-tenant dispute. The judge did not argue that the firm did not perform the services listed on its billing statement, but rather heavily criticized the amount of time spent on simple tasks and the hourly rate of the attorneys performing those tasks. The result was no recovery at all for Mayer Brown.
The Feature Article, linked below, discusses the Clozel decision and provides guidelines for judging whether a requested fee is reasonable. Visit Practical Law to review the full article.