Attorney’s Fees

Here’s a novel approach to being bored to death – try sitting though a court hearing on attorney’s fees.

You may not be aware that after a civil trial (trial only about money, not where someone could go to jail) attorney’s will fight over their fees and costs and if the losing attorney should pay.  Often this battles continues for a long time after a case is closed.  It’s not a guarantee that the losing attorney will need to pay, there are laws making this provision (in an attempt to prevent frivolous law suits) however, the law is not as straightforward as you’d think.  Personally, I think the law may just say – you shall pay if you can’t hire an expert to outwit the winning attorney.

Here’s how this plays out, first the winning attorney (for our purposes, she shall be known as Attorney W) has to put on a case about how truly reasonable her fees and costs are, that in fact – they are not high but right in line with what would need to be done to successfully represent and as she will surely point out win.  She will provide quite a bit of evidence supporting her stance.  The idea of evidence may seem like it could brighten up the proceedings, but its usually long lists detailing her fees and costs.  At this point the losing attorney (from here on known as Attorney L) will have the opportunity to question Attorney W about her ‘reasonable’ fess and costs.

But this can not become a game of ‘she thinks, he thinks’ about who should pay.  So second step in this painful process – Attorney W will put her hired gun expert on the stand.  This expert will testify about just how right and reasonable Attorney W’s fees and costs are.  Attorney L then questions this so called “expert” trying to show that he wouldn’t know a “reasonable” fee if it stood up, crossed the room, and hit him on the nose with a brick.  It should be noted that this expert is earning a fee to look over and testify about fees.

Third, attorney L gets his turn. He calls to the stand his own expert. This expert is clearly better than the other expert because he can show just how unreasonable attorney W’s reasonable fees and costs really are. At which point, attorney W then questions this “expert” about why he thinks her fees are unreasonable, then says this is all unfair and sits down.

Fourth and finally – we get to the argument.  Not exactly an argument like you had with your brother when you were 10, more like when your mom broke up the argument you were having and you both have to explain yourselves.  Both attorneys are very good at this and have been practicing for this very moment. Attorney W argues about how painfully obvious it is that she is a great attorney who deserves to be reimbursed for all of her very reasonable fees and costs. She uses cunning legal argument and presents irrefutable case law on the matter. (Case law is similar decisions made by other Judges who have previously dealt with ambiguously or poorly written laws that then need to be ‘interpreted.’) Attorney L then presents his clever legal argument and presents his own iron-clad case law. Take that attorney W.

The hearing is now over and the Judge (with a big cup of coffee) will mull over these amazing arguments, the expert’s fascinating testimony and the in-depth charts and lists on fees and let them know if Attorney W is going to receive a big reasonable sized check from Attorney L or if Attorney L will be able to count this as a small win and get the last laugh in this case.

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