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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Getting Paid

Here's a law business tip for you: You don't need a big-money case to make big money.

Any old case will do if you put in enough work.

You don't have to file a class action. You don't have to represent the family of a dead rich person who would have made billions if only he'd lived. You don't have to deal with complex financial shenanigans.

A wrongful demotion will do.

Really. If you missed it, check out the ruling from the 9th Circuit in Muniz v. United Parcel Service, in which a woman got demoted - not fired and not harassed, just demoted - and was awarded $27,280.

At trial she'd asked for $700,000.

It sounds like her lawyer missed the desired mark.

Not by much, though. The lawyer was awarded $697,971.80 in fees "after extensive argument."

This was down from the $1,945,726.50 in fees requested.

While you're picking up your dropped jaw, consider that this isn't illogical. After all, proving a biased demotion can be just as time-consuming and difficult as settling a multimillion-dollar stockholder suit. Surely you believe in being paid for effort.

And quite a lot of effort there was here - the trial court allowed billing for a total of 2,137.22 hours of lawyer time. And that was after finding the primary attorney's record-keeping "inadequate."

You put in the time, you should get paid.

Now here's best part of the 9th Circuit ruling upholding the fee award: The panel sent the case back to the trial court "to determine an award to the plaintiff for attorneys' fees and costs incurred in defending this appeal."

I'll bet there were a lot of hours spent on that appeal.

Another Jaw-Dropper: Money, however, does not come easily for everyone.

This is especially true for lawyers expecting money from an inheritance in Nigeria.

"Wright appears to have honestly believed - and continues to believe - that one day a trunk full of one hundred dollar bills is going to appear upon his office doorstep."

That is from a lawyer discipline ruling issued this month by the Iowa Supreme Court; Mr. Wright is the lawyer being disciplined.

You should just read it and then ask yourself this question: Shouldn't there be an ethical rule barring the practice of law while stupid?

The Iowa Supreme Court sanctioned the lawyer for a conflict of interest in getting several of his clients to loan money to another client, who needed to pay all sorts of fees to get his $18.8 million Nigerian inheritance. The court said Wright violated a rule "when he failed to make a competent analysis of the bona fides of Madison's Nigerian legal matter."

To protect the public, the lawyer got a one-year suspension.

I'm guessing he's not going to be a lot smarter a year from now.

Unless, of course, that Nigerian money shows up.

Money Coach: If you're having trouble making money as a lawyer, there are always coaches (who will charge you money).

This is the opening sentence of an article posted last week by one such coach on The National Law Review website: "Over the past few years, firms have begun to recognize the importance and value of investing in their talent to empower their lawyers to learn distinctly how to effectively attract and win new clients."

Yeah, back in the old days, law firms never thought about finding new clients.

Now they know there is both importance and value in attracting and winning clients.

The key seems to be repeating the same thing over and over again in long sentences.

Lots of lawyers already know how to do that.

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