The backlash from Mr Justice Floyds public criticism of Allen & Overys (A&O) 5.2m bill for work on a piece of IP litigation shows how you can win a court battle but lose the PR war.
A&O ran up nine man-years worth of costs for a five-day trial that saw Blackberry-maker and client Research In Motion (RIM) emerge victorious in its IP dispute against technology company Visto. Taylor Wessing meanwhile put in a bill for 1m on its work for Visto. Not cheap by any means but 80 per cent less than its adversarys.
Law firms are sensitive about fees, charge-out rates and how they staff litigation. So when a judge publicly dissects and disapproves of a major firms handling of these elements, it gets the market talking.
The story launched an unprecedented number of comments on TheLawyer.com website. There are 29 at the last count, which is more than any other since the comment function began last year.
The posters responses ranged from shock: Those are some fairly strong expressions by Mr Justice Floyd. Christopher Floyd is not someone who is given to extreme statements, he is normally quite conservative and not strongly extrovert in the way he expresses himself.
And also: A&O should have spent some of the immense man hours it clocked-up considering their client’s business rather than its own.
Some however came out in support of A&O: I mean if I was a client such as RIM I think I would much prefer a 5m bill and victory in all the issues, than a 1m bill and having lost all of the issues.
There was also a healthy dash of cynicism: I can see A&O have had their staff comment rather feverishly to justify the absurd. This illustrates everything that is wrong with the legal profession.
Whichever side of the argument you side with, it is an issue that will undoubtedly continue to divide the legal profession.