Around the Blawgosphere: Victorious Lawyers in Heller Case Got Chump Change, Bloggers Say
Posted Jan 13, 2012 8:58 AM CST
By Sarah Mui
Reeling over Fees Decision
In 2008, small-firm lawyer Alan Gura prevailed at the U.S. Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, which struck down D.C.'s handgun ban. The same year, Gura and the other lawyers for Heller sought more than $3 million for the work they put in over the course of six years, and Gura later defended that request in a reply brief (PDF posted by the Blog of Legal Times). D.C. wanted to the team to be paid around $800,000.
At the very end of 2011, the team was awarded just over $1.1 million in fees, the Blog of Legal Times reported. Judge Emmet Sullivan wrote in his decision (PDF) on this matter that Gura and his team shouldn't be able to "enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers” in a time of financial crisis.
Some solo practitioners see this as an outrage. If the lawyers representing D.C. in this case—who were determined to be arguing an unconstitutional position—were "concerned for the taxpayer in a time of financial crisis, they should have given back their salaries, as no government lawyer should be paid to argue against the Constitution," New York City criminal defense lawyer Scott Greenfield wrote at Simple Justice.
D.C. solo Carolyn Elefant noted at My Shingle that Sullivan drew the conclusion that because the market rate for small-firm lawyers is lower than for big-firm lawyers, Gura and his team should be compensated less. "Gura beat a lawyer who typically commands $1 million for a Supreme Court case. If Gura achieved the a better result than lawyers who charge double his rate, shouldn’t he be similarly compensated?" Elefant wrote.
A wave of outrage surged through the legal blogosphere last year when Findlaw started launching hyperlocal news-based blogs written by nonlawyer "writing specialists." This week, LexBlog's Kevin O'Keefe noted at Real Lawyers Have Blogs that FindLaw "is apparently selling ghostwritten blogs to lawyers. ... The blogs are not written by lawyers, they are written 'On Behalf of' a law firm. I guess that way it's not false or misleading advertising contra to bar rules for implying that a firm's lawyer authored the blog."
While O'Keefe thinks that signing posts with "on behalf of" or with the law firm's name could pass ethical muster even if firm lawyers aren't actually writing it, he thinks that it's shortsighted for a lawyer to outsource the writing of its blog posts. "You don't farm out networking, relationship building, and the demonstration of your expertise," O'Keefe wrote in a subsequent post on the subject.
Bloggers on the Run
As many people—including lawyers, no doubt—put New Year's fitness resolutions into effect, Rocket Matter's Larry Port wrote a Legal Productivity blog post urging lawyers to run a 5K or do a triathlon in 2012.
"Lawyers are more productive, have higher energy levels, and are less stressed when they exercise," Port wrote. "Lawyers, like other professionals, work better and clear a higher profit when they make better decisions. And you make better decisions when you’re less stressed. And you’re less stressed when you exercise. You also have more energy for work when you kick off the morning with a run or a circuit at the gym. And aside from the productivity and mental boost you get from exercise, there’s the clear benefit of better health."
Port then detailed some of his own fitness exploits, including an Olympic-distance triathlon in 2012. But he's not the only lawyer in a training program.
Arizona J.D. Ruth Carter writes at The Undeniable Ruth that she's running the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon "in the cold" in Phoenix. She also created a page on Facebook to try to connect with other lawyers signed up for the race. "I thought this would be a fun way to network with our fellow runners in the legal community," she wrote on the Facebook page.
But one law blogger known for his running is New York Personal Injury Law Blog's Eric Turkewitz, who is race director of the Paine to Pain Trail Half-Marathon and in his five years of blogging has written about running the Boston Marathon and, most recently, about running a 1-mile Turkey Trot run in costume.