Size matters for penny pinching judge

By Reporter|16 January 2012

An American judge has incurred the wrath of small firm lawyers everywhere by declaring that those working in small firms aren’t worth the same as those working in big firms.

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Lawyerist.com reports that Alan Gura, a lawyer with a small US firm who successfully challenged Washington D.C.’s gun ban, had his fees cut dramatically because he did not have to pay the overheads of large firms.

Apparently, Gura took the gun case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and toiled for six years to win what was thought by many to be an unwinnable case.

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But when it came to sorting out the dosh, Judge Sullivan of the Federal Court found that Gura’s work was not “sufficiently exceptional” to justify the requested enhanced award of $589 per hour and, quite simply, as a small firm lawyer, Gura didn’t deserve the big fat fees demanded by lawyers in large firms.

The judge thus slashed his fees by two thirds, calling his performance “unremarkable”. This was despite the fact that, at an earlier hearing, Sullivan waxed lyrical about how lucky the district was to have such “outstanding lawyers from outstanding firms” working on the case.

Blogger Carolyn Elefant vented her spleen on myshingle.com, saying, “Judge Sullivan’s decision is outrageous …Courts have fairly wide latitude in awarding attorneys’ fees. Judge Sullivan could have exercised his power to reach a decision more favorable to Gura and his team, but he didn’t … In my view, the decision results from an utter lack of understanding of, and respect for, the work that solo and small firm lawyers do.”

Indeed.

Size matters for penny pinching judge
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