Federal District Court finds that imprecise billing records will grant a reduction of the total attorneys’ fees to be awarded
Posted on August 7th, 2013 by Legal Fee Advisors
In a January, 2013 decision, the Federal District Judge Jean C. Hamilton, for the Easter District of Missouri, in the case of Lakeside Roofing Co. v Nixon, 4:10CV1761 JCH, 2013 WL 74371 [ED Mo 2013] reduced requested attorneys’ fees by 40 percent, as a result of plaintiffs’ failure to provide precise billing records and excessive hours.
This decision was based upon insufficient evidence, as to the amount of hours worked and the hourly rate charged by the plaintiffs’ attorneys. With their initial motion for attorneys’ fees, plaintiffs’ attorneys provided billing records generated by an automated document management system that their firm uses. This system identified the initials of the firm employees who worked on the case, by noting the date and the time of the start and close of any action pertaining to the case related documents, such as creation or edit of any of the documents. This automatically generated information failed to show the real time spent on the matter. Since the additional evidence submitted by the plaintiffs’ amended motion failed to demonstrate the actual number of hours worked, and to break down plaintiffs’ block-billing entries into individual entries with time for each of the tasks performed, the District Court reduced the requested attorneys’ fees by 20 percent. The court further reduced attorneys’ fees by an additional 20 percent, because the plaintiffs’ attorneys billed nearly 400 hours of attorney and paralegal time, even though this case was resolved by summary judgment, “after minimal discovery.” The court also reduced the hourly rate charged for one of the attorneys working on the case from $460 to $350.
The lesson to be learned here is that in order to be compensated for their work, attorneys are obligated to provide detailed and reasonable billing records, explaining, in great detail, each task they are billing their clients for. Additional care should be taken to make certain that the billing reflects efficiency as well as reasonable rates.
Enisa Tutovic | David Paige
Legal Fee Advisors © 2013