January 2008 Archives

January 30, 2008

Maybe they should call it "Con Bono"

sheriff.jpgHow much is the former sheriff of Orange County (charged with accepting cash, favors, and gifts) paying for his legal defense? $0. The mega firm of Jones Day is handling the case pro bono (although the ex-Sheriff will pay legal fees for the brief period before he resigned from office). How much does the Sheriff earn annually in retirement pay? $200K.

How much did Former Illinois governor George Ryan pay his lawyers at Winston & Strawn for defending charges of racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax fraud? $0. The firm handled it pro bono. How much did the defense cost? $20 million. Do you have to pay tax on pro bono efforts done on your behalf? Alas, that's a murky legal issue.

January 28, 2008

So, how much does it cost to read Penthouse?

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How much did a North Carolina attorney have to pay after being held in contempt of court for reading Maxim in court? $300.

What happened to the attorney's copy of the magazine? It was confiscated and labeled as Exhibit A in his contempt case.

What was the attorney's defense? He argued that Maxim was not pornography, and anyway, it was his girlfriend's subscription.

January 23, 2008

Let the bad times roll...

recession.jpgWill law firms be affected by the recession? Some say the legal business is already in one. How many associates did Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft lay off this month? 35. How many associates did Thatcher Proffitt & Wood cut at the end of the year? 50.

What legal practice areas are likely to be recession-proof? Real estate. How much has O'Melveny and Myers billed in six months over the subprime collapse? More than $12.5 million.

January 22, 2008

Some like it hot...

match.jpgWhat's the "hottest" trend in the legal business? Many analysts believe that climate-change law (advising businesses on global warming) is the go-to practice for the new millennium (and yes, there are treatises available to help).

How much did Baker & McKenzie earn from its "climate-change" division in 2007? The 60-lawyer team brought in somewhere between $15 million to $20 million. What are the hourly rates for climate change partners at the big U.S. firms? $500 to $700. What percentage of energy in law offices is wasted? 30% (.pdf).

January 18, 2008

One sues, the other makes shoes

skechers2.jpgWhat's the average firm billing rate for a U.S. law firm associate? $348 per hour.

What's the average hourly rate paid at the Zhuhai Footwear Factory (they make Skechers and Clarks)? $0.40 an hour.

How many Skechers can a first year associate buy with one year's salary? 2,500

How many hours of an attorney's time can a Zhuhai Footwear factory worker buy with one year's salary? 7.14.

January 17, 2008

Politician, lobby thyself

whiskey.jpgCan an indicted state politician use election funds to pay his attorney fees? We'll find out when the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission rules on a request by an ex-state senator indicted on bribery.

Why was the politician indicted? The senator was paid a salary by a medical school in exchange for doling out state grants to them. In addition, he was also accused of steering work to his law firm while enjoying an expense account that included, among other things, $50 shots of Glenlivet. (Wondering what a $50 glass of whiskey tastes like?)

January 16, 2008

Is it anything like a reverse Pac-man?

pacman.jpgWhat's a reverse contingency fee? Unlike a regular contingency fee (which is based on how much the lawyer recovers), a reverse contingency fee is based on how much the lawyer saves the client--for example, if a $10 million judgment is reduced to $2 million, the lawyer's contingency fee would apply to the $8 million reduction. For that reason, the reverse contingency is not uncommon among appellate lawyers. The principle has also been approved by the ABA ethics committee. Can a lawyer convert a regular contingency fee agreement into a reverse contingency fee? It's possible ... but not when the client denies knowing about the arrangement. Oops.

January 15, 2008

Go ask your mom...

girl-at-computer.jpgHow much did a Texas man recover in attorney fees after prevailing in a lawsuit against the RIAA? $0. Why didn't the judge award fees? The RIAA spent six months trying to contact the man trying to determine who was downloading music illegally from his computer. He didn't respond and then accused the RIAA of "sue first, talk later." (.pdf) His lawyer claimed that the ruling would put a chill on RIAA downloading defendants. Who was downloading music from the man's computer? His daughter. (POS needed.)

January 14, 2008

And we'll throw in the frame, too ...

law-degree.jpgWhat price can a certificate from law school fetch on eBay? We'll never know because the law school graduate who posted his offer didn't get any bids. One reason might be because the minimum starting bid was $100,000. (Or maybe would-be bidders already knew how useless those certificates can be.) What did the seller plan to use the money for? Supposedly, to pay off law school debts (though he hinted that it might also help his girlfriend with her adult website.) "Since I got a degree in screwing people for money," he wrote, "I thought I'd use it for such."

January 11, 2008

Can you trust a law firm with the word 'bill' in its name?

sutherlandlogo.gifHow many law firms in the 2007 National Law Journal survey reported a decrease in their partner and associate billing rates? One. Atlanta's Sutherland Asbill & Brennan reported that in 2006 its high end partners billed $845 an hour but that in 2007, the high end partners billed $715 an hour. Oh, wait. That was a mistake. A spokeswoman for Sutherland Asbill later reported the high end of the firm's partner range actually was $890 and blamed the error on a "reporting anomaly." The good news for clients: the average for Sutherland's associate billing dropped to $515 per hour. :-)

January 10, 2008

Hail to the Chief Litigator

seal-presidential-color.jpgWhich presidential candidates do not support caps on attorney fees in medical malpratice cases? Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and Thompson are opposed to capping fees in medical malpractice cases. Most Republican candidates support some form of cap. Does the American public care? Not according to (the often unreliable) Yahoo! Answers. How many of the current presidential candidates are lawyers? All of them, except John McCain. How many presidents have been lawyers? 25 (out of 43). How many presidents worked as lawyers after being president? One.

January 9, 2008

Kung Fu Hustle

kung-fu.jpgHow much can a lawyer secretly withdraw from an estate before being suspended from practice? $327,100. That's how much a New York lawyer removed without authorization from the estate of a former Brooklyn magistrate (known as "the Kung Fu Judge" because he employed martial arts moves while on the bench).  How much additional money did the attorney seek as legal fees for her work as 'guardian' of the judge's estate? $853,100. (Toss up question: Did Elvis ever use Fung Fu for real? Yes, in 1973.) 

January 8, 2008

And when will Gallagher appear?

gambling.jpgHow much did the state of Wisconsin pay an attorney litigating against the Ho-Chunk Nation Indian tribe over gambling income? At least $1.2 million. That's how much Wisconsin taxpayers have paid (so far) to a politically appointed attorney (and former chairman of the state's Democratic party). What was the lawyer's original estimate of his fees in the matter? $100K. How much did the lawyer recover for the state of Wisconsin? $30 million. When will George Carlin and Leann Rimes be appearing at the Ho-Chunk Casino Hotel and Convention Center? Look for Leann on January 26th and George on February 8.

January 7, 2008

The meek shall get duped by their estate attorneys

handshake.jpgHow many lawyers does it take to convince an elderly person into giving away money? Two, according to allegations against two New York attorneys. By befriending the rich and famous of Manhattan, a legal tag-team collaborated in some creative estate planning -- one lawyer doing the drafting, the other one on the receiving end of some hefty bequests. In addition, one of the lawyers (who befriended Brooke Astor's 83-year old son) allegedly forged Ms. Astor's signature on the final amendment to her will.

How much had one of the lawyers previously taken out of a client's escrow account before being suspended by the New York Bar in 1996? Almost a million dollars. Why did he take the money? Apparently the client had balked at the bill and the lawyer decided to take things into his own hands ... err, pockets. The lawyer was reinstated to practice two years later.  

January 4, 2008

White Man's Legal Burden

airporrt72.jpgHow much does the City of San Francisco have to pay a white man who won a race-discrimination lawsuit after being passed over for a promotion at the San Francisco Airport?  $30,300. (That's $15,300 in economic damages, and $15,000 in damages to compensate for emotional distress.)

The City of San Francisco has to pay the white man's attorneys fees. How much were they?  $1.1 million.

January 3, 2008

What about 60% … and we'll throw in free faxes?

dollar-bill72.jpgIs it unconscionable for a lawyer to get 40% contingency fees on top of $18 million in hourly fees already paid? No, not on "first blush," according to a New York Appeals Court. The court acknowledged that the fee agreement for the 22-year litigation “might arguably seem excessive and invite skepticism” (the deal would add another $42 million to the law firm's coffers). But things could have been worse; the law firm initially tried to get a 50% contingency agreement, but the 80-year-old client balked.

January 2, 2008

You shouldn't have ...

gift-box-72.jpgHow much did a brain-damaged man who also suffered a stroke allegedly give as a gift to his attorney? $450K. That's what a New York attorney claimed when trying to explain to a judge why he had ended up with nearly half a million dollars more in legal fees than he was entitled. The judge rejected the lawyer's argument and ordered a re-gifting of the payment to the client.

January 1, 2008

How about a $40K Gift Certificate to the Gap instead?

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How much did two Indiana parents have to pay their attorneys to sue a school district over a too-strict dress code? $0. Fearing a large legal bill, the parents handled the case themselves.

How much did the parents have to pay the school district's attorneys after losing the lawsuit? $40,931.50. That's how much a judge ordered the parents to pay after filing frivolous claims, disregarding legal rules, and missing deadlines.

What was the school dress code that triggered the lawsuit? Check it out yourself but be advised: no studded collars, no sagging, and no cleavage.