Within the last 20 years, corporate billing policies have become much more prevalent. This was a result, in my opinion, of lawyers and law firms becoming pigs and billing for ridiculous things and outrageous amounts. Most law firms, chastened by this increased scrutiny, tightened up their billing practices and changed the way they do business. Most clients did so as well.
Well, I found an exception. As I mentioned, I just finished trying a case against Wells Fargo Advisors. In connection with that case, which was tried in less than two days, I submitted a bill for the work my firm did, including costs, to the arbitrators. That bill was in the low $30,000 range. That’s about right for a case of the type and size I was handling.
Opposing counsel, however, apparently did a lot more work than I did. Their bill was over $150,000! That’s not a typo folks. For a two day collection case, with defenses. At the hearing, the law firm sent a senior partner, at a higher rate than mine, and a senior associate, who’s rate was about 75% of mine. Collectively, the firm seems to have billed its client about $10.50 per minute for the hearing.
There are many outrageous entries. There’s a 36 minute entry by opposing counsel to review a two-line email that I sent to FINRA. Then a 12 minute entry to write a two-word response. There’s what appears to be duplicate billing. There’s billing for administrative tasks like changing the due date on a calendar. I saw at least one entry where the file was billed for one legal assistant to tell another what to do.
There’s billing for hours and hours of reviewing the arbitrators’ bios. There’s billing for “organizing arbitrator ranking award information.” I thought that corporate clients stopped paying for administrative tasks a long time ago. Apparently Wells Fargo is in the minority. The firm even paid for legal assistants to update pleading binders, a task that most corporate clients stopped paying for. If you’re a lawyer and you’re reading this, get Wells Fargo’s work. It seems that they either pay for stuff that most clients no longer pay for, or they don’t review their bills closely enough to see that they’re paying for things that their policy, if they have one, prohibits.
When I received this affidavit of fees on Friday, I only looked at the total. Now that we’re digging deep into the bill, we found that this firm, which claims to represent brokerage firms, charged their client to research FINRA rules on whether or not exhibit notebooks had to be exchanged. This is basic stuff. Any firm that does this work would know that there is no such requirement without spending 48 minutes to figure this out. They could have asked their client and only billed twelve minutes for that.
There are plenty more examples of entries that a corporate client should not pay but apparently did.
That’s the view of an astounded lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin and I did not bill my client for this message.