"Compensation Survey Shows Lofty Rewards for Firms"

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."

"Eight Ways to Bill for Litigation Support"

Okay, this is very good to know! Lit support can be very expensive:

"Litigation support is an increasingly necessary service that helps attorneys and staff do all that they need to do with client data. Many billing options exist, but before we explore them, it might be helpful to identify the various things that commonly fall under the litigation-support umbrella. These include coordination of vendor support, database creation and administration, scanning/coding/OCR'ing documents, processing data for review, transcript management, converting data, capturing data, filtering data, producing data, media duplication, extranets, some trial presentation capabilities, and liaising with clients and co-counsel, to name just a few.


"In general, many firms use a combination of these [8 described] options or different combinations for different matters or clients. Regardless of choice, accurate time notes with a clear narrative will help those reviewing a bill understand and substantiate all of the work performed and the applicable charges. Additionally, time notes need to be submitted promptly so any questions or concerns can be addressed within the same billing period and before the bill is sent to the client. By doing this, a firm is better positioned to account for what it did, understand what was needed to do the job, plan for the future and make any necessary corrections.

"What is the best way to bill for litigation support? The clearest conclusion is 'it depends.'"

James E. McKenna is Morrison & Foerster's firmwide litigation technology manager. He is based in San Francisco.