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Billing Blunders: A 20% Reduction in Vague, Block-Billed Entries and a 10% Reduction for Overstaffing

In National Council of La Raza, et al. v. Barbara K. Cegavske, the court accepted Defendants’ argument that Plaintiffs “over lawyered” the case through needless overstaffing of routine intra-office communications and engaged in faulty billing practices by block billing vague entries. See Nat’l Council of La Raza v. Cegavske, No. 3:12-CV-00316-MMD-VPC, 2017 WL 2683683 (D. Nevada June 21, 2017).

The Court pointed out a number of redundancies in the Plaintiffs’ intra-office communications where the attorneys spent an unreasonable amount of time billing for tasks such as telephone conferencing with co-counsel, strategy meetings, emails, and reviewing each other’s filings. The court deducted an additional 10 percent from the attorneys’ fees, despite a voluntary reduction of 10 percent by the firm, due to the severe nature of the redundancies.

Additionally, the Court mandated a further 20% reduction to block-billed, vague entries. The Court found that the Plaintiffs block billed these vague entries in such a manner that the Court could not even determine whether the time spent on those tasks was reasonable. The Court accepted the Defendants’ argument that the Plaintiffs’ attorneys did not bill with “the appropriate level of specificity and erroneously billed for hours spent on an unrelated case.”

This case exemplifies the need for specificity and precision with regard to legal billing and the consequential reduction in fees the court can make if the attorneys’ fees are not recorded with the correct level of detail. Further, the court placed an emphasis on the need for attorneys to allocate their resources properly to avoid overstaffing and redundant work to prevent a consequential reduction in fees by the Court.

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