A Nice Paycheck Does Cushion the Legal Pain

By January 4, 2008Briefly Legal

Mark Tapscott of The Examiner sends a note asking some sharp questions about the big payoffs — OK, legal fees — being hauled in by trial lawyers who, if not already found guilty, have at least been indicted on conspiracy charges.

Why is a federal judge awarding the largest lawyer fees in history to a trio of firms that includes Milberg Weiss, the first firm ever indicted by the Justice Department for violating federal anti-racketeering laws originally aimed at the Mob? The firm and its senior named partner, Mel Weiss, face criminal trials later this year, while four now-former principals have in the past year pleaded guilty to various felony counts in connection with a long-running plaintiffs bribery scheme the government contends started nearly three decades ago. Today’s Examiner editorial says Milberg Weiss fees should be put in escrow until the criminal charges are resolved and the full truth is known about the extent of the crimes committed by members of the firm. Here is a sample:

“On its face, $464 million in legal fees (plus another $28.9 million for “expenses”) is far too generous to the firms. To earn such fees, 50 lawyers would have to work 80-hour weeks at $500 an hour for 4 1/2 years, with no breaks. Or look at it this way: The previous record for legal fees paid in one case was the $366 million in the WorldCom suit. That was just three-fourths the size of the fees in the Tyco case, but the WorldCom settlement of $6.1 billion was some 70 percent larger than the Tyco settlement.”

Many reporters have done solid reporting on Milberg Weiss, Bill Lerach, Dickie Scruggs and the predations of the plaintiff’s bar, but The Examiner and Wall Street Journal (for example, here) seem to be the only outlets consistently writing about these issues on their opinion pages. Why so reluctant to comment?

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  • andy says:

    The reality is to win a case like Enron, or Worldcom, etc. you need at least 50 lawyers (more like 100 to review the millions of pages of documents during discovery) working at least 80hrs./week at an average rate of $500. (NY Defense attorneys charge up to $1000/hour). Add the cost of experts, $600-1000/hr. to right a voluminous report in a complicated case, travel costs, administrative costs, support staff, the risk involved if you lose a case on contingency that you have battled for 7 years, and the numbers are not as extreme as they first may appear. I, for one, am more concerned with the paychecks hedge fund managers rake in, $50-100 million per year, or the profits companies like Blackwater are making off of the taxpayers, or the billions of dollars wasted in Iraq building up their infrastructure while bridges collapse in America. That’s why no one cares about your article.

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