Ex-client wants $22 mln from Brown Rudnick, saying lawyers overbilled

2 minute read

U.S. one dollar banknotes are seen in this illustration taken February 8, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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  • Christof Industries answered a fee lawsuit from its former lawyers with its own allegations
  • It says some of Brown Rudnick's requested fees "verge on satire"

(Reuters) - An Austrian multinational construction company on Friday went on the offensive in a fee dispute with U.S. law firm Brown Rudnick, claiming the firm routinely overbilled it and demanding $22 million.

Brown Rudnick sued Christof Industries Global GmbH in September, alleging the industrial plant builder owed $8 million in attorney fees and interest from an international arbitration over a failed construction project.

But the law firm racked up more than $6 million in fees after promising in writing to not exceed a $2 million fee estimate, Christof alleged in its countersuit, filed in Boston federal court on Friday.

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The law firm improperly overbilled, Christof alleged, saying one attorney billed more than $145,000 for 231 hours preparing to examine one witness. The law firm billed more than 40 hours for assembling binders, the company said.

"In a number of time entries that verge on satire, Brown Rudnick attorneys even billed for drafting and corresponding about a proposal for their 'binder compilation strategy,'" Christof said in its suit.

A Brown Rudnick spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the claims.

The dispute stems from Brown Rudnick's work arbitrating a conflict arising from a Christof subsidiary's work as a contractor during the construction of a fiberboard production plant in South Carolina.

Christof said it signed an agreement with the firm so that its legal costs would not exceed $40,000 a month, plus a $200,000 retainer up front. But it said Brown Rudnick billed more than $250,000, not including the retainer, just in its first month.

A panel awarded Christof more than $24.5 million in damages in the underlying arbitration, which was offset by about $20 million in advanced contract payments the company had received. The final award was for $6.68 million.

The case is Brown Rudnick LLP v. Christof Industries Global GmbH, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, 1:21-cv-11964.

For Brown Rudnick: James Stoll and Stephanie Calnan of Brown Rudnick

For Christof Industries: Benjamin Wish and Rachel Hutchinson of Todd & Weld

Read More:

Brown Rudnick sues construction company for $8 million over unpaid fees

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.