BigLaw firm partners awarded fraction of their $1,500-plus hourly legal fees
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Helgi Walker: It is “not surprising that a national firm’s rates might be slightly reduced in a context where local market comparisons are being made.” Image from Shutterstock.
Two Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partners usually bill more than $1,500 per hour, but they trimmed the amount to only $950 per hour in a request for an award of attorney fees following successful litigation in the Southern District of Florida.
Gibson Dunn had successfully represented defendant Peak One Opportunity Fund in a lawsuit alleging that the lender harmed startup Social Life Network Inc. when it exercised an option to obtain stock at a discount and then resold it.
Gibson Dunn was entitled to fees and expenses under a contractual agreement between the two litigants. Gibson Dunn sought to recover more than $237,000.
Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres recommended an award of nearly $158,000 in fees and expenses, a recommendation adopted by U.S. District Judge Darrin P. Gayles of Miami on Tuesday.
The award included only $700 per hour for the “high-level partner work” of Gibson Dunn partners Helgi Walker and Barry Goldsmith. Walker, co-chair of Gibson Dunn’s litigation practice, is based in Washington, D.C., while Goldsmith is in New York, Reuters reports.
Torres said he had no trouble understanding why Walker and Goldsmith charge more than $1,500 per hour for their services. But when awarding fees to a prevailing party, “this court has long recognized that it cannot force the loser to pay for the luxury of unusually well-qualified counsel when the standard the court must apply is designed to ensure nothing more than competent legal representation,” Torres said, quoting from another decision.
Walker provided a statement to Reuters.
It is “not surprising that a national firm’s rates might be slightly reduced in a context where local market comparisons are being made,” she said.
“The headline here is that we were successful in getting our client awarded almost $150,000 in fees for the plaintiff’s inappropriate and meritless suit,” she said.