$1,234 an hour is a lot to ask for a losing effort

By The West Virginia Record | Aug 12, 2011

You can't blame a lawyer for wanting to make as much money per hour as possible, especially when a good job is done, but you have to wonder about an attorney who charges an exorbitant hourly rate for a bad job.

The national average billing rate for lawyers is $284 per hour. Some attorneys charge considerably more, and some considerably less, but that's the average.

So, what was Robert Wilson thinking when he asked U. S. District Judge John Gibney in Richmond to award him and four colleagues $900,000 for 729 hours of their alleged services?

That works out to $1,234 per hour, about a thousand dollars more than the national average hourly billing rate for lawyers.

The Finkelstein Thompson law firm attorney and his cohorts were engaged as counsel in an unsuccessful shareholder suit that sought to prevent the merger of Massey Energy and Alpha Natural Resources.

Wilson, et al. want to be paid $900,000 for the failing effort, or $1,234 per hour.

Not surprisingly, the Massey-merged Alpha objects to paying this fee.

"Litigation is not supposed to be a lottery," Alpha attorney Robert Rolfe wrote to Judge Gibney, noting that the plaintiff "not only achieved no judicial victory, but did not even attempt to achieve one."

Rolfe said that plaintiff's counsel "never filed a motion for affirmative relief of any kind."
He also questioned the accuracy of hours billed. "Compensation is demanded for time spent on events that never happened," Rolfe said, and 52 hours are billed as preparation for a pretrial conference "which lasted less than an hour."

It will be interesting to see how Judge Gibney sorts it out. We can't believe that Robert Wilson will get to bill at $1,234 an hour, especially for such a feeble effort.
Still, if you want to hire an attorney at an exorbitant hourly rate and get very little in return, you know where to go.

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