Queens County Supreme Court Reduced Attorney Fees by 45% Due to Excessiveness, Padding and Inefficiency

Posted on July 9th, 2014 by Legal Fee Advisors

In a February 2012 decision concerning New York’s Lemon Law, the Queens County Supreme Court awarded attorney fees in the amount of $22,765.50, which constituted a 45% reduction of the $50,590 originally requested. The court held that such reduction was warranted due to excessiveness, padding (i.e. hours that are excessive or otherwise unnecessary) and general inefficiency of the legal services provided.[1]

To be clear, the court did not dispute that plaintiff’s attorney expended the time billed, but rather found that the work “could have been performed in substantially less time and more efficiently by a more experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable attorney.”[2] In determining to reduce the fee award, the court reflected on three examples of needless, duplicative and non-legal work performed by attorneys. The first example of needless work was 6.6 hours spent on a motion to compel billed in the amount of $2,510 which was never filed with the court.[3] Next, the supervising attorney’s time was reduced from nineteen to ten hours because it was duplicative of the work performed by the lead attorney.[4] Lastly, the court reduced the paralegal billable hours from sixty one to thirty hours based on clerical tasks performed by paralegals such as “copying, collating, typing etc.”[5] Furthermore, the lead attorney conceded that in drafting a summary judgment motion he “relied on prior motions and memorandum of law” that were prepared by the firm in previous cases.[6]

Additionally, the court determined the reasonable hourly rates to be applied in this case by looking to case law from the Second Circuit. The court found that the prevailing market rate for an attorney with more than 25 years experience was $350-$400 per hour, $325 per hour for partners, between $100-$250 per hour for associates, and approximately $100 for paralegals.[7] Applying the fees normally charged in the locality, the court reduced the fees charged by the lead attorney from $410 per hour to $225 per hour, the supervising attorney rate was reduced from $330 per hour to $225 per hour, and the paralegal rate was reduced from $130 per hour to $85 per hour.[8]

Overall, the instant case highlights several paramount issues with regard to legal fees. It demonstrates that it is improper to bill for excessive, duplicative, unnecessary, unproductive and inefficient work as well as non-legal secretarial work. Moreover, this case emphases the notion that above all else attorney’s fees must be reasonable.

A. Vays

Legal Fee Advisors © 2014

[1] Francis v. Atl. Infiniti, Ltd., 34 Misc. 3d 1221(A), 950 N.Y.S.2d 608 (Sup. Ct. 2012)

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

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