Inefficient Billing Results in over 75% Reduction in Attorney Fees

Posted on June 24th, 2015 by Legal Fee Advisors

A judge has slashed attorney fees by over 75% from the amount requested by attorneys who represented a man in a pistol permit case. In a case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ultimately upheld an application for a pistol license that was denied by a Schoharie County’s pistol permit licensing official, Northern District Judge May D’Agostino set attorney fees at $54,305.65,[1] well below that which was requested by attorneys from the firm Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis.

Judge D’Agostino

Additionally, the attorneys requested fees for a number of hours that were not reasonably expended, including for duplicative and unnecessary work due to overstaffing, and work that could have been performed by paralegals. For example, the attorneys charged for nearly 90 hours of work to reassert arguments that they had already developed earlier.[5] Judge D’Agostino also noted that there the attorneys requested fees for administrative tasks for which the attorneys should not have charged for at all.[6]

Furthermore, Judge D’Agostino found that many of the attorneys’ billing entries were so vague as to make it difficult for the court to ascertain the nature of legal work being performed.[7] She noted that bare entries such as “examined issues re:” and “legal research re:” were too vague to be compensable.[8]

This case demonstrates that courts are willing to significantly reduce attorney fees when there is a prevalence of duplicative work and excessive hours billed for by attorneys. Law firms should know that staffing a case with attorneys with high billing rates for work that could have been adequately performed by paralegals or clerical staff does nothing more than inflate the costs billed to clients. Inefficient billing practices such as these lead to inflated fees that the courts are willing to find unreasonable.

J. Clark

[1] Joel Stashenko, Judge Slashes Fees for Law Firm in Pistol Permit Case, (Mar. 13, 2015),

[2] Osterweil v. Bartlett, 92 F. Supp. 3d 14 (N.D.N.Y. 2015)

[3] Id. at 12-15.

[4] Id.

[5] Id. at 26

[6] Id. at 15-29

[7] Id. at 17

[8] Id. at 18

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