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Enron Lawyers Picking Up the Tab in a Big Way

For my solo colleagues and me, getting stiffed for five or 10 thousand dollars is fairly significant.  So, it's hard for me to fathom how Dan Petrocelli and O'Melveny Meyers must feel now that they may never collect from their client, Jeffrey Skilling, the $25 million that he still owes  the firm (on top of $40 million that he's already paid) as reported in this article from the Washington Post, All in a day's work:  Law firm stuck with tab after Enron trial. From the article, here's how all that money has been spent:

O’Melveny enlisted five partners, led by Petrocelli, who now bills at $850 per hour but who said that for the Skilling defense, as an “accommodation,” he and others capped their rates at the 2004 level -- in his case, closer to $800 an hour. M. Randall Oppenheimer, who leads the firm’s entertainment division and who has won major cases for Exxon Mobil Corp., and Mark Holscher, a onetime federal prosecutor who has a bustling white-collar defense practice with such clients as former congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, also logged hundreds of hours at similar rates.

On top of that, the team included more than a dozen associates and other counsel: junior lawyers who reviewed documents, scoured databases and investigated witnesses, uncovering e-mails Petrocelli used to impeach government cooperators in aggressive cross-examination. Those younger lawyers billed $200 to $500 per hour, depending upon their level of experience.

Still, I can't help but wonder whether all that work was worth it. There's no doubt that Petrocelli deserves credit for an outstanding performance, but could he have done just as well on half the budget?  The article mentions that at the outset of the case, the firm believed that it would have access to Skilling's $60 million in cash and assets, but prosecutors put a hold on those funds. Did the firm set a budget with an anticipated ceiling of $60 million because it thought that's what it had access to?  Or were the tasks undertaken integral to Skilling's defense?  What do you think?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 19, 2006 at 01:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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