Just because you successfully handled the merits of a case doesn’t mean that you should take on a large or complex fee motion that arises from it. It may be time to bring in someone with fee motion expertise.
Here are four reasons to bring in outside counsel for a fee motion:
- The expertise required for fee motions may make it more efficient or effective to hire an experienced fee litigator.
- Trial counsel’s credibility or skill is often a major issue, and an outside attorney adds objectivity to the presentation.
- Fee applications can become very time-consuming, and trial counsel’s efforts might be better spent on matters more within his or her areas of expertise.
- The cost to trial counsel (“fees on fees”) can be claimed from the opponent (see Serrano v Unruh (Serrano IV) (1982) 32 C3d 621 (prevailing party is entitled to fees for time spent preparing and litigating fee application)).
On the other hand, there might be reasons for handling fee motions “in-house” in some cases, particularly if the law firm or program seeking the fees has an attorney with sufficient expertise. Keep in mind that, just because outside counsel potentially can recover his or her fees (“fees on fees”) from the opponent doesn’t mean it will happen—there’s a risk that the court will deny the motion for fees or refuse to award all of the fees sought, leaving your firm on the hook.
Regardless of whether you decide to use outside counsel, make sure that your law firm designates one of its attorneys to be primarily responsible for maximizing attorney fee recoveries. Otherwise, the firm is likely to miss deadlines or make mistakes early in the case that even the best outside counsel will be unable to remedy. This is particularly critical if you represent low-income clients in certain civil rights, employment, or public interest cases and statutory attorney fees are your only source of payment if you win.
Get expert advice from Richard Pearl on claiming and opposing trial court fees in CEB’s California Attorney Fee Awards, chap 11.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find interesting:
- Does an Ethical Breach Bar an Attorney from Getting Fees?
- Getting Your Fees Along the Way
- The Lifeblood of Your Practice: Getting Your Attorney Fees
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