Law Firms

BigLaw firm withdraws request for legal fees after judge says it can’t shield its billing rates

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King & Spalding has withdrawn a request for nearly $665,000 in attorney fees after a federal judge ruled the law firm can’t keep its billing rates secret.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta refused to allow the law firm to seal the fee information in a decision last week, report and Law360.

King & Spalding had sought the fees in a suit seeking Justice Department records about a federal investigation into the marketing practices of a medical device company that made a heart pump.

King & Spalding said it spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and costs because the government dragged its feet in the suit. The law firm said it finally received the information after “nearly four years of unnecessary wrangling.”

King & Spalding had asked the court to seal two documents that revealed the billing rates of King & Spalding lawyers who worked on the public records case, and detailed hours spent on specific tasks.

King & Spalding had argued exposure of billing rate information would harm its standing with respect to competitors.

Mehta initially had sealed the documents, but sided with the government when it asked him to reconsider his decision.

“The public interest in disclosure is arguably at its zenith when the fee demand is made against the public fisc,” Mehta wrote. “Indeed, there is something untoward about plaintiff asking to conceal their hourly rates and the work done from public view, while demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public treasury as compensation.”

Mehta also noted that King & Spalding attorney billing rates have been disclosed in other matters.

When King & Spalding filed its motion to withdraw the fee request, it also sought to keep the fee documents sealed and asked that they be destroyed.

The government did not oppose the documents remaining under seal, but said it was aware of no authority requiring destruction of the documents. As a result, the government said it opposed destruction.

The government also said it was aware of no authority requiring it to destroy the fee documents that had been served on the government. The government said it would keep the documents and treat them as confidential.

Those documents would be evaluated for disclosure if there is a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, the government said.

King & Spalding did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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