October 2007 Archives

October 28, 2007

Two Attorneys Walk Into a Restaurant

lunch1.jpg What does it cost for two attorneys to have a meal together? If the client is Larry Birkhead, father of Anna Nicole's baby, then expect to get billed $1,116.16 for one meal and $2,467.75 for another. FYI, the client wasn't invited to either gourmet experience.

October 25, 2007

Don't Bill Me, I'm British

What's it take to get free legal help in Britain? To qualify for free legal help (aka Community Legal Services), your monthly disposable income must be less than £601 ($1226) -- that's your gross monthly income minus statutory deductions.

How much can a wealthy British couple save by not taking their divorce case to trial? Approximately £1 million ($2 million) -- at least that's how much Sir Paul will save by hammering out a divorce settlement with soon-to-be-former-spouse Heather Mills.

princess-di.jpg How much can Mohamed Al Fayed save by stopping his legal investigation into the death of Princess Di? According to the London's Daily Mail, if Mohamed Al Fayed shut down his investigation into the death of his son, Dodi, and Princess Di, he could save "an astonishing £1.5million" ($3 million) per month.

October 24, 2007

What About the Rock and Roll?

lips.jpg What types of legal billing will get an attorney disbarred? One surefire approach, used by a lawyer in Wisconsin, was to accept sex (and drugs) as payment for prior legal services.

How much sex and drugs equals a billable hour? That's not clear from the state bar's decision but in terms of record-keeping, the "payment" was videotaped by the husband of the woman offering sexual favors, ensuring that "there was no dispute that the bill for legal fees had been paid in full."

October 17, 2007

Honk if a Celebrity Owes You Legal Fees

mj.jpg What's it cost to sue a celebrity for unrecovered attorney fees? Apparently $175K. That's what a judge awarded a law firm forced to hire outside counsel to recover attorneys fees from Michael Jackson. (The firm previously had won a judgment for $256K for unpaid fees in MJ's molestation case.) Current tally owed by the gloved one to lawyers: $431K.

What's it cost to send a lawyer to a celebrity funeral? $2.7K (based on a three-hour funeral and a lawyer who bills at $900 an hour.) The funeral attendance at issue is apparently part of a $200K claim for attorney fees by the attorney for Dannielyn Smith (Anna Nicole's baby).

What percentage of a scandal-ridden teenage celebrity's salary is an attorney entitled to? Five percent of gross earnings, according to Vanessa Hudgen's attorney who claims he is owed a piece of the star's paycheck for "up until 12 months after their lawyer-client relationship had ended." Wait, is he her lawyer or her agent?

October 15, 2007

If You Really Don't Like Lawyers, Click This Ad

mouse.jpg The NY Times ran a story on the (astronomical) fees paid by lawyers for Google click-through ads (advertisements that appear above and to the right of Google search results). To see what some lawyers pay each time someone clicks on "personal injury lawyer michigan," click here.

October 15, 2007

How Much Rain Must a Rainmaker Make?

umbrella.jpg Can a law firm fire an attorney for failing to seed the clouds? Apparently not, according to a New York state judge who affirmed a $425,000 arbitrator's award against mega-firm Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner.

The claim: An attorney with a two-year employment agreement was dumped in 2006 for failing to generate enough billables or bring in new clients.

Thelen's defense: They had no obligation to employ a "million dollar space warmer."

Thelen's problem: The employment agreement didn't clearly specify any rainmaking obligation. (Like they say, the shoemaker's children go barefoot.) And to add to the pain, Thelen had to pay attorneys' fees.

October 10, 2007

Billables Banned in Boston

billablehourwatch.jpgWhat did lawyers do before the billable hour? Back in the 1930s and 1940s, state bars published minimum fees for legal services and warned that lawyers "charging less than the minimums were to be punished." (The Supreme Court eventually banished  the "base fees" system.) The billable hour followed, popularized in the 1950s and 1960s, later labeled "the cockroach of the legal world," and now the subject of many lawyer gag gifts.

The billable slayer? Previously, we wrote of Scott Turow's quest to kill the billable hour. Now, a Boston firm appears to have stepped up to the plate, banishing the time clock. In its place, according to the Boston Globe, a flat annual fee or flat price per task.

It sure beats: watching your Simpson Thatcher attorney bill out at $1000 an hour.

October 5, 2007

Another Reason to Do Your Own Last Will

wqp8_cvr.gif A Memphis estate lawyer, apparently dissatisfied with his hourly compensation, dipped into several estate funds and ripped off his law firm, as well. The take: a few million in cash and some artwork.

How did the scheme work? First, the attorney assures the family there’s “nothing to worry about." Second, he siphons money from client’s accounts, trusts and estates. Third, he diverts attorney’s fees from the law firm’s general fund and escrow account. Fourth, he has fun, pays off personal credit card debts, and purchases lots of artwork.

How much can you make? This attorney drained one estate of at least 1.5 million and reportedly embezzled lots more from at least 11 other clients.

Mitigating factors? The attorney's on-the-stand explanation of the events—“I was a bad actor.” Wait ... if he scammed over 1.5 million as an attorney, doesn't that make him a great actor?

October 3, 2007

First Thing We Do … Let’s Buy All the Lawyers

October 1, 2007. Mark the day in your It Had to Happen Calendar!  The Australian law firm of Slater & Gordon—the first law firm to be the subject of an IPO—became the first publicly traded law firm (appearing on the Australian Securities Exchange).

How is S&G rated as an investment? According to Motley Fool, with a P/E multiple of just 15, S&G compares favorably on price to similar businesses that you can buy in the U.S. although earnings growth has averaged a mere 10% per year over the last two years.

Ethical Implications? Let's not even think about them. After all, can a law firm sue a company that’s one of its major shareholders? What about when various law firms’ shares are acquired as a group—Small Cap Personal Injury Mutual Fund, anyone? Indexed Asbestos Plaintiff's Firms? We may be seeing the future but like they say, past performance is no guarantee … etc.