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Churn, baby, churn

Lawyers at big law firms often get accused of padding their high-rent bills.

Now there’s some apparent proof of the practice, at least at one really big firm.

The New York office of DLA Piper, the country’s largest law firm, sued a client for whom it handled a bankruptcy matter for $675,000 in unpaid legal fees.

That was the proverbial kick of the hornet’s nest.

The client, Adam Victor, an energy industry executive, fired back with a counterclaim accusing DLA Piper of “a sweeping practice of overbilling,” reported Dealb%k, a New York Times blog.

Victor’s lawyers sought discovery of the law firm records and got back 250,000 pages of documents.

Two of those 250,000 documents are getting a lot of attention – an internal email exchange between lawyers at the firm.

Only a month after the case had been filed, one lawyer seemed to acknowledge that there was a padding issue, warning that “I hear we are already 200K over our estimate – that’s Team DLA Piper!”

A colleague responded that a lawyer on the bankruptcy case “has random people working on random research projects in standard ‘churn that bill, baby!’ mode.”

“That bill shall know no limits,” he added.

DLA Piper, no surprise, declined comment on the suit or the emails.

Victor’s lawyer has amended his counterclaim to include a fraud claim and a demand for $22.5 million in punitive damages, or 1 percent of DLA Piper’s reported revenue last year.

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