As reported by Watchdog.com, Rusty Hardin, the lead attorney attempting to impeach University of Texas regent Wallace Hall, has produced his first invoice in seven months, despite being contractually obligated to produce monthly invoices.
The bill in question is twenty pages long and covers the month of November 2013. Within this time Rusty Hardin and Associates amassed a $93,728.66 invoice, which is leading to a total legal cost of about $700,000 for almost eight months work. While high legal costs are not a surprise in large legal disputes, the way in which Rusty Hardin & Associates have reached almost $700,000 is under criticism. One of the most highly criticized billing entries is a “$1,350 research and email charge which took a total of 4.5 hours and described the email as lengthy.” However, the exact amount of time it took to draft this email is unknown due to the block billing nature of the billing entry. Despite this, many would agree that $1,350 for a single email is an exorbitant cost.
The invoice also shows other charges that go above and beyond industry standards. In the November 2013 invoice, Rusty Hardin & Associates billed $854 for online research. Many courts have found online research akin to maintaining a law library and consider such charges as overhead and thus, not chargeable to clients. Furthermore, there were issues with Hardin & Associates charging for non-working travel. “Hardin brought five associates with him for a one day hearing held on November 12 and the cost to drive to and from the hearing cost $26,600.” This is clearly not in line with the Fifth Circuit, that has stated that this type of non-working travel must be charged at 50% of the associates’ billing rate. Finally, there is evidence on the bill that attorneys and paralegals are charging for clerical tasks, such as uploading documents to Dropbox. Purely clerical tasks should not to be charged to clients as such costs should be subsumed in the law firm’s overhead.
With a total cost of litigation on track to reach $700,000, the criticism of the legal billing of Rusty Hardin & Associates may be valid.