Legal Ethics

San Diego Sues Willkie Farr

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San Diego’s city attorney has filed a malpractice suit against Willkie Farr & Gallagher. It claims that the high-powered New York City-based law firm overbilled and exceeded the scope of its agreed representation to help a consultant and municipal audit committee prepare a report on the city’s financial failures.

After the project morphed into an 18-month, $20-million effort, City Attorney Michael Aguirre filed what technically amounted to two malpractice suits, one on behalf of the city and the other on behalf of state taxpayers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. He did so without the San Diego City Council’s approval, which could prove controversial, the newspaper notes. The San Diego Superior Court litigation seeks $29.2 million, triple the $9.7 million the city paid Willkie Farr.

A representation letter says Willkie was to provide “counsel and assistance” to the consultant, Kroll Inc., as well as to work on “other matters that … may require inquiry or investigation,” the Union-Tribune reports.

Willkie partner Benito Romano stood by the firm’s work, but declined to comment specifically on the case. The firm details its work for the city, however, on a Willkie Farr Web site post last year.

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