Attorney Fees

Arbitrator Finds Goodwin Procter Overcharged Client, Orders 55% Cut in Legal Tab

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An arbitrator has concluded Goodwin Procter overstaffed and overbilled legal work for a real-estate client.

The arbitrator, Jeffrey Martin, found the law firm submitted vague bills, used too many employees to draft legal documents, and failed to deliver on a promised discount, the Boston Globe reports. Martin ordered the firm’s $1.1 million tab cut by 30 percent for the promised discount and 25 percent for the other reasons, a reduction of more than $540,000 for the client, Northland Investment Corp.

According to the Globe, “the arbitrator’s finding calls into question the business model Goodwin and many other large law firms have relied on for decades: deploying huge legal teams to pursue clients’ cases, often assigning more than a dozen lawyers to compile research, conduct depositions, and draft motions.”

The story says Martin listed these charges as questionable: more than 206 hours of work by six employees to draft a complaint and injunction request, nearly 103 hours for seven employees to draft another document, and almost 65 hours for five employees to prepare for a motion hearing.

Northland isn’t satisfied with the decision. It says the entire bill should be excused because Goodwin lawyer Gilbert Menna went on a rant in front of a corporate investor, calling Northland’s chief executive “cheap” and “a lunatic,” and claiming the company was in financial trouble.

Goodwin Procter told the Globe in a statement that the accusations are “an unfounded attempt to smear Goodwin Procter and its lawyers.” The firm does not view the ruling as a rejection of its billing practices and pointed out that Northland still owes about $560,000 under the decision.

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