Friday, July 13, 2007

Mardirossian & Assocs. v. Ersoff (Cal. Ct. App. - July 13, 2007)

Sugar Ray Leonard. Tae Bo. California attorneys suing for fees. Dilatory misconduct and sanctions. Alleged conflicts of interest. This case has it all.

I'll leave most of the case for your own review. But let me just make one comment about the sworn expert testimony of (contingency fee attorney) Dana Hobart, who testifed -- in an attempt to justify the amount of hourly fees that the contingency fee plaintiffs should be entitled to recover -- that "because contingency fee lawyers’ fees depend on the outcome, they often spend many more hours than an hourly attorney would on a case, unconcerned about the mounting hours because the client will not be billed."

Now, I have no doubt whatsoever that this is sometimes the case. But, in my experience, the exact opposite is the usual rule. You can often tell how a lawyer's being paid by the type and amount of work he does. And the hard workers, churners, and others who devote massive time to a case are typically paid by the hour, not on a contingency. Similarly, the efficient attorneys, sluffers, and other who devote little effort are rarely paid by the hour, and typically instead work on a contingency.

This isn't to slam either group. There are, as one might expect, good and bad attorneys in both crowds. But the claim that contingency lawyers typically spend more hours on a case than those paid by the hour -- which is the upshot (if not the actual words) of the testimony -- seems just flatly wrong.

On the whole, an interesting case on which to round out the week. Enjoy the sunny weekend, all.