Attorney's Fees Matters

Many lawsuits include a demand to recoup attorney's fees and it may be the fact that these types of requests are so common that some litigators mistake the attorney fees issue for being simple. In fact, there is a very specific (and at times complex), body of caselaw that deals with the question of what is reasonable in attorney's fees litigation. The precedent makes it clear that major victories (or losses) can occur if one side is not prepared to address these nuances. What is more, there are various 'vectors of attack' that opposing counsel can use against a vulnerable fees petition. Hence, whichever side of the issue you are on, ensuring that the fees sought conform with the lodestar case is merely a 'start point' not the 'end point'. 

One major pitfall which can be surprisingly easy to overlook in these cases is that lawyers sometimes do not realize that they need an attorney's fees expert until the hearing has already begun. This is because, it is possible to get opposing counsel to stipulate to evidentiary matters in the hearing and many lawyers go into the proceeding assuming that this is what will happen. Naturally, if one side does not agree, the other side will then have to be prepared to lay the proper evidentiary foundation to get their fees affidavit and ledger into evidence and this can be fatal to the hearing if not planned for. 

The next pitfall deals with acting as your client's own witness. If you are the one seeking the fees and it is now clear that the other side will fight your attorney fees motion, you may be stunned to know that you might have to step out of your role as advocate and step onto the witness stand as a witness to properly authenticate your own bills. Naturally, this can pose serious challenges if you must now race, in last-minute fashion, to find a colleague who will stand-in as co-counsel to conduct your direct examination based upon your, (potentially lengthy), fee affidavit and ledger.  

Even if you are versed in the relevant law, there is the further risk that your new co-counsel may not be as familiar with that same precedent and there may not be enough time to brief them before hand. If this happens, your co-counsel may not be prepared to extract the necessary information from you while you are on the stand sufficient to support your prayer for relief. Concurrently, your colleague will also be at a disadvantage when it comes to properly parrying the inevitable cross-examination which will come your way from opposing counsel.

On the other side, if you are defending against an attorney's fees motion, it can be invaluable to be able to tender expert testimony which can 'tear apart' the other side if they have been sloppy in their record keeping or have otherwise failed to follow the various rules and the effect in front of the Judge can be extremely favorable for your side.  

Regardless of which side you are on, retaining an expert attorney's fees witness early in the process can not only help avoid you having to act as your Client's own witness but it can also provide a de facto 'fee audit' of the bills. This can help you 'pressure test' your case and identify fees in the ledger that may need to be pre-emptively addressed with the Court to avoid giving the other side any advantage. 

Zach McCormick has experience acting as an expert witness in this area and, as a trial attorney himself, can help spot potential problem areas early. Such areas include spotting issues related to 'double-billing', 'bloc billing', relative reasonableness of the time spent on a billable item (such as travel time, dictation, drafting , preparation, costs etc...). Additionally, with 'working from home' becoming the norm and lawyers increasingly appearing virtually in venues which are far from where their billable rate is determined, Zach McCormick will review the geographic appropriateness of such fees as compared with the local rates and the state average.   

In conclusion and stating the obvious, if your argument related to fees is airtight and objectively reasonable, a Judge is far more likely to use their discretion to increase or reduce the fee award to you and your client's liking. Having a good fees expert means you remain 'at the helm' of your case and your client's chances of recouping their investment in you increases considerably. To top it all, you can usually recoup your expert fee expenses entirely thereby making it all essentially 'free' to your client. 

Certainly, there are many instances where an expert's services are not required. However, when debating whether to get an attorney's fees expert, it can sometimes be helpful to simply ask yourself what would happen to your Client's case if the other side shows up with an expert and you did not? 

If you would like to discuss retaining Zach McCormick to act as an expert attorney's fees witness in your case, please call to set up a consultation.  

For more information on Florida's lodestar attorney's fees case please reference Florida Patient Compensation Fund v. Rowe,472 So.2d 1145, (Fla. 1985).

With its experienced litigation and trial attorneys, the Law Office of Zach McCormick accepts cases of this type. If you would like to schedule a consultation in relation to a Florida attorney's fees, please call the Law Office of Zach McCormick at (352)742-7474 to schedule an appointment. Please note, due to demand, consultations are scheduled on a 'first-come, first-serve' basis and are frequently set out by a week or more depending on attorney availability. Consultations last up to an hour and are most productive when the consulting attorney has been given the opportunity review any relevant case material in advance of your consult. For this reason, please take care to compile relevant documents, photographs/video, messages (such as text messages) and send them in advance of your appointment. A consultation fee will apply unless otherwise stated and must be paid on the day of your consultation.

Call now to schedule a consultation (352) 742-7474

Please be aware that although there is attorney-client privilege during your consultation and you may seek to retain this firm following a consultation, no ongoing attorney-client relationship is created through the mere act of taking a consultation with Zach McCormick Attorney at Law, PLLC and its agents. Instead, if you wish to retain the services of Zach McCormick Attorney at Law, PLLC, a formal written representation agreement must be executed by both the law office and the client and payment must also be fully tendered.