Record $300M Attorneys Fees Pays Lawyer $35,000 Per Hour?

By Andrew Lu on September 07, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed a $300 million attorney fee award to two firms involved in a corporate takeover deal.

This award is one of the largest awards of attorney fees ever and came to represent a billing rate of roughly $35,000 per hour worked or 66 times the value of plaintiffs' lawyers time and expenses, reports The Wall Street Journal.

While these rates may seem outrageous, a Delaware judge got behind the backs of the much maligned attorneys -- and their attorney fees -- and basically said haters should stop hating.

To be fair to the attorneys, the award of attorney fees only came to represent about 15% of the total amount at stake, writes Journal reporter Joe Palazzolo. The attorneys who struck it rich represented a group of shareholders of a Peruvian copper company who received a $2 billion judgment over the company’s purchase of a Mexican mining company.

For anyone ever involved in a contingency lawsuit, you’ll know that a 15% cut by the attorneys is relatively low.

Still, given the $300 million award, many bystanders cried foul and used the attorney fee award as an opportunity to paint lawyers as bottom-feeders and money-grubbing fat-cats. And that’s when Delaware judge Leo Strine Jr. heard enough, saying that he didn’t understand why people fuss when attorneys strike it rich, yet certain individuals like bankers get a pass for routinely making as much, reports the Journal.

The judge noted that “envy is not an appropriate motivation to take into account when you set an attorney fee.”

But just because bankers routinely receive large paydays, does it make it all right for lawyers to receive large attorney fees? After all, this is the two wrongs, don’t make a right idiom.

While this may be so, the Delaware Supreme Court found that it was not their business to disturb the judgment. So long as Judge Strine’s attorney fees award was not “capricious” or “clearly wrong,” the state Supreme Court found that the award would stand.

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