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Judge Not Thrilled With 53 Law Firms on One Case

'What is this, some kind of convention for plaintiffs' lawyers?'

That's what Judge Lucy Koh could have been thinking when two law firms brought 49 more firms into a data breach case. Then she told the attorneys what she was really thinking, and it wasn't funny.

"What made you think I wanted 53 firms churning on this case?" Koh asked the attorneys in federal court in San Jose.

Special Master

Koh appointed a special master to go through the billing records of 329 lawyers in the class action against Anthem, Inc. The attorneys want nearly $38 million in fees from a $115 million settlement fund.

But that's not all. With costs, the judge said, only 45 percent of the fund would be left for the class members.

She said the settlement was good -- "the largest settlement reached in a data breach class action in the United States." It also requires Anthem to triple its annual spending on data security and to implement reforms.

But $38 million in fees for 329 lawyers? That's a class unto itself.

"Deeply Disappointed"

Earlier in the case, Koh had questioned whether the lead counsel -- Altschuler Berzon and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll -- had the expertise to handle it. They wanted eight law firms to litigate it.

"I think that's very inefficient and it makes me wonder whether your two firms don't have the resources or the expertise in data breach and privacy cases to be lead Plaintiffs' counsel here, that you feel like you need the support of six additional law firms," the judge said.

The special master will look at fees of more than 100 partners and more than two dozen contract attorneys, each charging $300 to $400 an hour. Koh said she was "deeply disappointed."

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