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The price of taking on Maryland’s largest law firm

Tonya Bana (submitted photo)

Tonya Baña said she logged nearly 1,300 hours representing Donald E. English Jr. in his lawsuit against Miles & Stockbridge PC. (Submitted photo)

In his closing arguments of his client’s three-week trial against Miles & Stockbridge PC, veteran trial attorney Kenneth Ravenell painted an image of David versus Goliath to the jury, with his client, former equity principal Donald E. English Jr. taking on one of the largest law firms in the state.

“It takes one person to stand up to a bully,” Ravenell told the jury in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

A few hours later, the jury awarded a $231,000 verdict in English’s favor, giving him all that he asked for, including treble damages. (Miles & Stockbridge filed a notice of appeal last week after a Baltimore judge denied post-trial motions filed by the firm seeking to set aside or reduce the verdict.)

But affidavits filed in court this week along with a motion seeking nearly $776,000 in attorneys’ fees English and his legal team say they took personal and professional risks in moving forward with their case, even after getting a jury verdict in their favor.

English alleges Baltimore-based Miles & Stockbridge used a “scorched earth” defense strategy and refused to entertain numerous settlement offers, causing English to rack up such exorbitant attorneys’ fees.

“The requested fees are … reasonable given that undertaking this matter carried a significant risk that Mr. English’s attorneys would incur a considerable financial loss,” wrote Tonya Baña, English’s employment attorney, in an affidavit.

Baña was handling most aspects of English’s case and brought Ravenell on the team this spring when it was increasingly likely the case would be going to trial. Baña logged about 1,270 hours on the case and Ravenell logged around 350. They charged $400 and $850 per hour, respectively, according to court records.

From July 2017 through June, when Baña was working on English’s case, her income was half of what she made the previous 12 months when she was working part-time as her building was undergoing renovations. Her income was down 75 percent compared to the period from July 2015 to June 2016, when she was working full time, the affidavit states.

“While I typically have two or three cases in litigation, I have never had an employment litigation matter that required as much time and effort as Mr. English’s case,” Baña wrote.

It’s not all about the money, either. Baña, who was an associate in Miles & Stockbridge’s labor and employment group from 2003 to 2006, was reluctant to take a case against her old firm because she frequently opposes the firm’s lawyers and considers many people who work there as mentors and friends. Some have even referred clients to her, the affidavit states.

Baña knew English from her days working at Miles & Stockbridge. English approached her in late June 2017 about taking his case, but Baña declined and referred him to two other employment lawyers, according to her affidavit. She agreed to take the case a few weeks later after the lawyers she recommended either asked for high retainer fees or refused because they shared Baña’s concerns about opposing Miles & Stockbridge, the affidavit states.

“(Especially) now that Mr. English has prevailed, I continue to face the risk that my former colleagues at Miles & Stockbridge will exclude me from networking opportunities or stop referring me clients,” the affidavit states.

Miles & Stockbridge declined to comment on English’s motion for attorneys’ fees or its own appeal.

The case is Donald E. English, Jr. vs Miles & Stockbridge PC, 24C17004438.

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