Attorneys Are Billing at $1,200/Hour, To No One's Surprise

By Andrew Lu on October 11, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A strange result to have come from the recent Apple Samsung lawsuit has nothing to do with patents. Instead, it's been the debate over attorney fees.

After Apple successfully defended its patents in federal court, news and rumors started to trickle out as to how much Apple paid its attorneys to litigate its case. Guesses ranged from Apple paying its attorneys as little as $30 million to as much as $500 million.

In addition, reports like "Apple Patent Battles Create Lawyer Boon at $1,200 an Hour"  gave notice to these apparently exorbitant fees. However, these attorney fees articles also led to a mini-backlash and then the defense of attorneys cashing in.

By rate of comparison, a Delaware judge defended the equivalent of a $35,000 an hour attorney fee award. In his September decision, the judge said the fees were fair and that there was nothing wrong with attorneys hitting the jackpot. The judge said that investment bankers frequently cleared as much. And he did not understand why people were in an uproar that lawyers would also make a lot. In that case, attorneys got $300 million in attorney fees for a $2 billion judgment.

Still, the Apple $1,200 billing rate may be much ado over nothing. Apple is the most valuable company in the world and is valued at roughly $620 billion. Even if Apple paid $100 million in attorney's fees, this fee amount would be roughly 0.016 percent of Apple's net worth.

In comparison, someone arrested for a DUI may spend $3,000 for his defense. This person would need to be worth roughly $19 million to achieve a similar ratio.

Apple's attorney fees may seem high if viewed in a vacuum. But if you look at all the players involved and the amount at stake, one could say that Apple got a bargain with their legal fees.

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