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Maryland Legal Malpractice Attorney

Case study of how a Rockville law firm overcharged its client by almost $10,000

This is a case study as to how a Rockville law firm overcharged its client by almost $10,000.  The underlying case involved a relatively simple divorce action between parties, who had been married for only 3-years.  The wife was represented by a Rockville law firm.    I represented the husband.

The Rockville law firm charged $12,101 to its client from August 9, 2012 through February 25, 2013.   I  charged $2,860 to my client during the same time period.   Many factors contributed to the $9,241 difference in attorney’s fees.

First, the Rockville law firm charged $310 per hour, whereas my rate is $200 per hour.  Even if the Rockville law firm had billed at my rate of $200 per hour, its imputed fees of $7,820 still would have been grossly excessive.

Secondly, Rockville law firm was incredibly and, perhaps intentionally, inefficient.  It billed an excessive amount of time for simple tasks.  For example: The Rockville law firm billed 1.9 hours to prepare discovery requests.  I billed my client 0.3 hours to prepare discovery requests.  The Rockville law firm billed 10.5 hours to respond to my client’s discovery requests.  I billed my client 4.1 hours to respond to the opposing party’s discovery requests.

Thirdly, the Rockville firm had 3 different attorneys perform legal services for the wife.  When multiple attorneys work on the same case, there will be duplication of legal services.  For example: On January 4, 2013, the parties attended a Scheduling Conference and a mediation session in Circuit Court.  The Rockville law firm billed 3.9 hours for 2 different attorneys to represent the wife at these separate events.  I billed my client 2.4 hours for the same events.

Fourthly, the Rockville law firm overworked or churned the file by performing unnecessary legal services.  For example: The Rockville law firm charged almost $4,000 for its initial meetings with its client, drafting the Complaint for Divorce, preparing a Financial Statement, and having follow-up communications with its client.   In contrast, I charged $500 for my initial meeting with my client, drafting the Answer and Counter-Complaint for Divorce, and preparing my client’s Financial Statement.

Overall, the Rockville law firm’s excessive bill can be attributed as follows:

15%   Excessive hourly rate;

45%   Inefficient rendering of legal services;

10%   Duplication of services caused by multiple attorneys; and

30%   Performing unnecessary legal services

Practice Pointer for Clients:  Your selection of counsel will profoundly influence the amount of attorney’s fees that you will incur.   I recommend that you choose an attorney who is both experienced and efficient and who charges $250 or less per hour.


Article by Stewart A. Sutton featured in the Maryland Bar Journal:
Emotional Distress Damages - Recoverable in Legal Malpractice Actions
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Law Office of Stewart Andrew Sutton, LLC
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Telephone: 301-916-5000
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