“…$195 an hour for work by paralegals…”

Have paralegal billing practices gotten out of control? The New York Sun seems to think so:

"A bitter legal brawl over attorneys’ fees has erupted in a national cosmetics pricing class action lawsuit, with feuding camps of plaintiffs’ lawyers slinging allegations of flagrant billing abuses and extortion.

"Among the alleged abuses were bills of $195 an hour for work by paralegals who were paid just $30, claims that attorneys and paralegals worked 24-hour or even 72-hour days, and charges of $90 an hour or more for cleaning desks and filing.


"Clerks and paralegals at another plaintiffs’ firm involved in the litigation, Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann, and Bernstein, of San Francisco, billed between $90 and $195 an hour for services described as ‘cleaned up desk,’ ‘cleaned up office,’ and ‘filing.’


"[Professor of legal ethics at New York University] Stephen Gillers said it is ethical to mark up the cost of contract workers, within reason. ‘That’s allowed because you’re accepting responsibility for the quality of their work, but the increment has to be reasonable," he said. ‘To charge $195 an hour for a paralegal who’s getting paid $30 seems to be pushing the envelope beyond its breaking point.’


"A partner at Lieff Cabraser, William Bernstein, called the allegations against his firm ‘off the mark.’ He said he supervised a paralegal who worked fulltime on the cosmetics project and maintained a depository of millions of pages of documents from the cosmetics and retail industries.

"’Given the thousands of hours of time put into these cases, someone can always, I’m sure, find some reason to second-guess the billing practices,’ Mr. Bernstein said. ‘That’s why we think the percentage of recovery method is a better way to pay lawyers.’"

Something else to remember when recording your time: Would most clients think this was time well spent?