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The 71-hour day and other billing practices

There’s alternative billing, as my colleague Danielle Ulman wrote about in Monday’s paper, and then there just might be Glenn C. Lewis’ alleged billing practices.

Lewis had days with as many as 71 billable hours, and in a 16-month period in 2003 and 2004, he billed clients for “3,620 hours, or an average of 226 hours per month, or 7.4 hours a day, 365 days per year,” according to a story in Sunday’s Washington Post.

Lewis told the Post the 71 hours in a day billing was “block billing,” where he entered his hours for many days at once, and that he works night and weekends.

The billing came to light because the divorce lawyer sued a former client, Steve Firestone, for $500,000 in unpaid fees and interest after already having received close to $400,000 from Firestone. (For the record, the Post story seems to indicate Firestone lived comfortably but this was no Frank and Jamie McCourt Who-Owns-The-Dodgers divorce case.)

The divorce case was filed in 2003 and ended one year later without a trial. Firestone hired a defense lawyer in Lewis’ lawsuit who in turn hired family law experts to review the billing statements and the divorce settlement. Their conclusion? The bills were “flagrantly disproportionate to the value of the dispute” and the settlement was a “lousy deal.”

Firestone countersued for legal malpractice. Last week, Lewis agreed to settle the case by paying Firestone more than $102,000, including $25,000 in sanctions for violating pretrial orders.

Lewis, for his part, told the Post he stood by his lawsuit:

He owed us more than that. We earned more than that. I feel as strongly today as I did the day we filed [suit], that Mr. Firestone owed every penny of it.