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How much lawyers' work is worth $300 million?

Two Miami law firms were awarded more than $300 million Thursday in attorneys fees for their work in a suit against Exxon Mobil Corp. [See the AP report here.]

The Miami firm Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson will receive about $247.3 million, while the firm of Pertnoy, Solowsky and Allen will get about $53.2 million. Three other law firms in the case were awarded a measly $8.6 million.

The suit was a run-of-the-mill class action -- Exxon was blamed for not providing discounts on gasoline prices that it had allegedly promised 10,000 stations. Exxon lost at trial (how surprising), and last year the Supremes rejected its appeal. Interest accruing during its appeal process more than doubled the amount due by Exxon. [Maybe there should be an expedited process whereby the Supremes tell tort defendants "sorry, we're not going to intervene in the case, go ahead and pay quick."]

Gas station owners are now in for a bonanza of about $65K each on average. They will be waiting for their payments to be determined by a special master (also presumably paid out of the proceeds). Of course, the lawyers' payment is 428,600% of the gas station owner payout.

U.S. District Judge Alan Gold Gold dismissed protests about the amount of the fees, noting the "length of the firms' involvement in the case, the extensive appeals and the risk the firms faced if they lost at trial or on appeal." There was no calculation of the hourly worth of the lawyers' time.

I've been working at George Mason Law School for 19 years now. I'm at tremendous risk if I lose this job. I'm giddy at the prospect of what Judge Gold thinks my next renewal contract should be worth.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.