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Weekly Wrap Up 10/28/2011

A collection of legal fee articles…

Businesses Sue Lawyer & O’Quinn Firm, Seeking $110 Million (Texas Lawyer) – Two businesses (collectively referred to as “Gulf Coast”) are seeking $110 million in damages for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty against Russel Lloyd and the firm John M. Quinn & Associates of Houston. The businesses allege that the firm missed deadlines and that they had a strong cause of action for damages of over $110 million in their California case. Instead, Gulf Coast was facing an award of attorneys’ fees in Alabama for $1 million dollars, and alleged they were forced to abandon their California appeal in order to secure a $500,000 settlement in the Alabama case. Quinn refers to the case as having an unfortunate result, but maintains there was no breaches of duty. Currently the firm is in the midst of winding down its affairs due to the death of John M. Quinn two years ago.

Are Law School and Bar Exams Necessary? (New York Times Op-Ed) Clifford Winston, economist for the Brookings Institution and author of the “First Thing We Do, Let’s Deregulate All the Lawyers,” recently wrote an op-ed for the New York Times advocating the deregulation of the legal field to non-lawyers. Winston presents as his evidence the continuing sanctions by State Bar Associations imposed on lawyers for unethical conduct that do not end up in disbarrment (he does not address how consumers would be protected by eliminating barriers to entry). Winston also argues that such practices would lower costs by allowing vocational certificate holders to practice in drafting wills and representing the poor in criminal hearings. Note: The opinions expressed above are those of Mr. Winston and do not reflect the authors of this website.

District Court Finds Attorney’s Hourly Rate Excessive for Clerical Tasks and Travel Time (Sterling Analytics) – In Muhammed v. Martoccio, the plaintiff filed an application for reimbursement of attorneys’ fees in the amount of $93,300, representing work performed by two attorneys. After conducting a review of the billing records, the court reduced the fee request by more than $10,000. The court first evaluated the billing records of the plaintiff’s primary counsel. The court found that the attorney’s time records contained entries for time spent performing secretarial tasks. In particular, the attorney billed one hour for time spent driving to court, delivering a letter by hand, and then driving back to his office.

Love or Hate Trial Lawyers? Dueling Reports Give Both Sides Ammo (Westlaw – New York Legal) – The fight for tort reform PR is continuing with reports from both sides this week. Corporations who are advocating caps on large awards, recently produced a study in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stating that states without tort reform are costing their citizens jobs. The study purports that “improvements” to the legal environment can stimulate private sector employment by 1.0 to 2.8%. Meanwhile, the American Associate for Justice (the trial lawyers’ lobbyist organization) put out a report entitled “Do as I Say, Not as I Sue”, which identified corporations advocating for tort reform that file frivolous lawsuits. One particularly egregious example cited was FedEx suing a developer who built a desk, table and chairs out of FedEx boxes, and claimed they were violating their copyrights.

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