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Chadbourne Accused of Overbilling for Research; Other Claims in Pipeline

Posted May 8, 2009 8:26 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An unjust enrichment lawsuit claims Chadbourne & Parke billed a client $20,000 for online legal research that cost the law firm only $5,000.

San Diego lawyer Patricia Meyer, who represents the Texas businessman suing Chadbourne, tells the National Law Journal that at least a dozen other law firms are also overbilling for research, and more lawsuits are in the pipeline.

Meyer alleges that Chadbourne and several other law firms are paying flat fees to legal research companies such as Westlaw and LexisNexis, but billing clients at hourly rates, the story says. Meyer claims it is a violation of California ethics rules to charge the higher amount without disclosing the arrangement to clients.

"This appears to be more widespread than you would think," Meyer told the publication. "Basically what we're finding is that certain law firms are using Westlaw and Lexis as profit centers. … Quite candidly, what we're finding is the clients really have no idea that this is going on.”

The plaintiff in the Chadbourne suit, J. Virgil Waggoner, alleges unfair business practices, unjust enrichment, fraud and deceit.

Chadbourne partner Thomas Hall issued this statement to the NLJ: "We adamantly deny this claim of Mr. Waggoner, with whom we ended our relationship over four years ago. It is telling that Mr. Waggoner—a Texan who had retained our New York, not California, office—filed suit in California only after his New York malpractice lawsuit against Chadbourne was dismissed and only after we sued him in New York for unpaid fees."

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