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Sunday, April 13, 2003

Hourly Rate Smackup

Today's Los Angeles Times story about lawyer Bertram Fields ("His Cause: Bringing Down the Mouse") profiles an advocate who has made suing Disney in high-stakes cases—like the Winnie the Pooh merchandising dispute—something of a specialty: "'I would not represent Disney,' he said flatly. 'I don't want to be in a situation where I can't sue them.'"

Bert's $850 hourly rate as described in the article makes me wonder if he won't be hearing soon from Becky Klemt MacMillan of Laramie, Wyoming's Pence and MacMillan. Back in 1988, Becky is said to have penned a masterpiece of correspondence in response to SoCal lawyer Stephen G. Corris, who, so it goes, thusly declined Becky's invitation to help enforce a judgment: "Without sounding pretentious, my current retainer for cases is a flat $100,000, with an additional charge of $1,000 per hour. Since I specialize in international trade and geopolitical relations between the Middle East and Europe, my clientele is very unique and limited, and I am afraid I am unable to accept other work at this time." If you missed Becky's comeback when it first made the rounds in the days before email, go read it now. It'll make your day (possibly your week).

Some endnotes:

  • The Legal Assistants Division of the State Bar of Texas says it contacted both parties to confirm the legitimacy of this exchange when it reprinted the letters in Issue #18 of the Texas Paralegal Journal. If you read to the end, there is a wrap-up discussing the flood of correspondence both lawyers received in the aftermath. Not surprisingly, Becky's tended toward marriage proposals and business referrals, while others tried to emulate Becky and join up with Steve (who admittedly exaggerated his rate).
  • It's a mystery to me why Pence and MacMillan doesn't feature this on its Web site.
  • Steve is an active member of the State Bar of California and a former navy pilot who appears to still practice here in beautiful Orange County. His focus seems to have shifted toward criminal defense, as well as civil litigation "of most types, from personal injury to defense from those who want you [sic] house, your money and your cat."
  • It is entirely possible that among my firm's roughly 1,000 lawyers there are courtroom or deal jockeys who bill their time in this same stratospheric range. I don't think I've met them, but if/when I do, I'll probably suggest a sabbatical to Laramie.

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