What do law firms bill their clients? You might be surprised; then again, maybe not:
"Miami attorney Eugene Stearns may prove true the old cliche about getting what you pay for.
"The plaintiffs attorney is credited with taking a teetering case against ExxonMobil and turning it around to win his clients a $1.1 billion judgment.
"After the verdict, Stearns and other firms who worked on the 15-year-old case brought against the oil company by gas station owners battled over what they should be paid.
"Stearns asserted his firm was instrumental [PDF link] in winning a case that was bogged down and going nowhere when his firm signed on 10 years ago.
"U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold agreed. He threw out a fee agreement signed when Stearns first joined the case in 1996 and awarded his firm $249 million in fees, more than triple what the firm would have received under the agreement.
"In the July fee ruling [PDF link], Gold called Stearns' work in the case 'groundbreaking' and 'highly skilled.'
"But Stearns is a pricey lawyer to have on your side, billing $700 an hour, the highest fee found for a south Florida attorney in the Daily Business Review's first annual lawyer billing survey."