Law Firms

Imprecise Contract Costs Thelen Reid $450K


A law firm’s failure to specify a requirement for minimum billings in an employment contract has cost it a $450,000 arbitration award.

A New York judge has upheld the award to a former partner of Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner who was fired in violation of his employment contract, the New York Law Journal reports. The law firm merged with Thelen Reid & Priest in 2006 and is now known as Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner.

Brown Raysman contended it fired Lee Goldberg because he wasn’t billing sufficient hours. But Judge Bernard Fried said the contract to pay Goldberg $400,000 the first year and $425,000 the second did not contain any billing requirements, the legal newspaper reports.

The law firm had argued it had a reasonable expectation that Goldberg would bill a reasonable amount of hours, and the $260,000 he generated in client business the first year at the firm failed to meet that expectation.

“To suggest that Brown Raysman bargained for a million-dollar space warmer is irrational on its face,” the firm argued. “This is not an agreement to pay an hourly wage to a store clerk who may be required to stand idle when business is slow. [Goldberg] was purportedly a multimillion-dollar originator with a duty to develop a practice. He was expected to bill more than a day a week. [The firm] did not agree, as he testified, to pay him $400,000 simply on the (albeit unstated) commitment that he would not ‘goof off.’ “

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