Friday, August 30, 2013

Who Is Really Responsible For Excessive Legal Bills?

Litigation is expensive, and federal litigation is especially so.  In cases we file, defense counsel frequently make reference to the fact that we represent our clients on a contingent fee basis and that is why the litigation is so expensive--because the plaintiff does not have to pay any legal bills and therefore the defendants bear a disproportionate financial burden.  Even Judge Rader, Chief Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, said so in an op-ed piece in the New York Times.  Judge Rader's opinion suggests that contingent fee lawyers bring meritless cases, thus causing defendants to incur substantial legal bills unnecessarily. 

Thankfully, some developments in a dispute between Adam H. Victor and his (hopefully former) law firm belies the myth being advanced by so many who should know otherwise.  It's not the contingent fee lawyers who cause excessive legal fees; excessive legal fees are caused by the lawyers who bill those excessive fees. 

So in a nutshell, here's what happened:  
  • Mr. Victor engaged his firm for a legal project on April 22, 2010
  • The firm's initial estimate for the project was $400,000
  • Less than one month later, on May 20, 2010, the firm's bill was already at $600,000
  • Mr. Victor refused to pay the firm's bill, claiming it was too high
  • The firm sued Mr. Victor for the unpaid bill
Those are operative facts; now let me put a little more meat on the bone. . .