As Bill Shaikin reported yesterday — and as Steve Dilbeck reveled in today — part of the some $2.34 million in legal bills thus far submitted to the bankruptcy court considering the Dodgers case is a half hour entry by an attorney for “reviewing press reports” relating to Dodgers’ $150 million loan from MLB. It cost McCourt $330 for that half hour.*
Some may want to guffaw at that, but in almost any case that gets press coverage, some poor sod — although usually a sod who bills less than $660 an hour — is tasked with reviewing press reports and putting together a synopsis for the legal team. Oftentimes a paralegal gets that job, but I had to do it before too.
Why do they bill for it? It’s simple, really: everyone tries their case in the press in these matters. You gotta know what the opponent is saying, what they’re hinting at doing. You have to assess whether there is some surface appeal to the opponents’ arguments as filtered through the press. You have to figure that someone who matters — be it the judge or a clerk who works for him — is reading it too. It’s just part of being prepared for the next hearing or the next brief.
But I’ll say this much: we were always told that our billing entries should not read “reviewing press reports” or anything like it. After all, the client is gonna read those entries and they don’t want to be reminded that they’re paying someone hundreds of dollars an hour to read the paper. Better to make it sound more legal-related: “research re: MLB loan” would be OK perhaps. If you really want to look like you’re adding value (while still saying very little that could be later scrutinized in a malpractice action) you could try “analysis of bridge loan with special attention paid to ancillary matters re: 8/12 hearing.”
Or, you could go vague. They tell you not to do this, but I worked with a guy who would write “analysis re: issues” on his billing entries. What kind of analysis? What kind of issues? Who cares! The client paid the bill anyway because it was the dotcom bubble years and no one ever looked at a damn bill back then. Now though? Hoo-boy.
*And I’m guessing that it was more than a half hour, even though that’s all that appears on the bill. I’m nowhere near a top news source for Dodgers bankruptcy stuff — I merely blog this junk — but I have noticed Google searches from IP addresses associated with the Dodgers’ law firms landing on my personal website. My guess is that the lawyers there are reading some post I did and then Googling me to see just who in the hell I am. If it took only six minutes to do it — the smallest increment normally billed — it cost McCourt $66. And that makes me feel good for some reason.