The internal emails from the law firm of DLA Piper have been disclosed for a fee dispute between Adam H. Victor and the firm, according to The New York Times. Victor is an executive in the energy industry. Victor was sued for $675,000 by the firm in unpaid legal bills. Victor then filed a countersuit, claiming the firm executed a “sweeping practice of overbilling.”
Victor hired the firm in April of 2010 to help file a bankruptcy claim for one of his companies.
“I hear we are already 200k over our estimate — that’s Team DLA Piper!” wrote Erich P. Eisenegger, a lawyer at the firm.
Christopher Thomson, another lawyer at DLA Piper, wrote, “Now Vince (Roldan) has random people working full time on random research projects in standard ‘churn that bill, baby!’ mode. That bill shall know no limits.”
William G. Ross is a professor of law at Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law. He conducted a survey of 250 lawyers in 2007. Half of them said that they would perform pointless work because of billing extra time.
“Lawyers sometimes conflate their own financial interests with the interests of the client who pays the bills,” Professor Ross said. “Of course, most lawyers are ethical, but the billable hour creates perverse incentives.”
The three lawyers from Piper who wrote the emails are no longer with the firm.
“As the firm got bigger, there were all of these lawyers who I didn’t know suddenly showing up on my bills,” Victor said.
“DLA seems to love to lowball the bills and with the number of bodies being thrown at this thing it’s going to stay stupidly high and with the absurd litigation P.O.A. has been in for years it does have lots of wrinkles,” Thomson wrote.
Later on, Thomson then began to complain that associates at DLA Piper were taking too long to finish work. “It took all of them four days to write those motions while I did cash collateral and talked to the client and learned the facts. Perhaps if we paid more money we’d have skilled associates.”
There have been over 250,000 pages of documents handed over to Victor by the firm as part of the pretrial discovery process. Victor said that the emails he read have confirmed his suspicions of bill inflation.
“For the past decade, I have fought with DLA to reduce their legal bills,” Victor said. “And now I’m going to keep on fighting.”
DLA Piper said it does not comment on pending litigation.