Top Lawyers

The Washingtonian discusses with Ted Frank the rise in the cost of hiring a lawyer.

In the last 20 years or so, “multibillion-dollar litigation started becoming not that unusual,” says Ted Frank, an advocate of tort reform and president of the Center for Class Action Fairness—and an alumnus of three large firms. “When you have billions of dollars at stake, it becomes a rounding error to throw as many lawyers at it as possible.”

And the lawyers who get thrown into these matters often come from the nation’s leading—and most expensive—law firms. It’s like the old saying about how no one got fired for hiring IBM. “The incentives are there to hire the big law firms,” says Frank. “No one will second-guess you if you’ve gone to O’Melveny or Kirkland or any of a few dozen top-notch firms.”

Besides an increase in legal filings over the past two decades, there has been an increase in how expensive it is to litigate cases. Frank cites the advent of e-mail as adding to the cost of litigation—and the corresponding increase in some lawyers’ incomes: “The discovery rules haven’t changed to account for the fact that what used to be a few boxes of documents in a litigation has now become all e-mails since time immemorial. It requires a lot of warm bodies to look at them. And even though there has been a rise in the use of temp lawyers and contract lawyers to cover these, it does make any given litigation that much more expensive.”

Read the article at the Washington.