Federal Judge Says Small-Firm Lawyers are Worth Less than Big-Firm Lawyers

Alan Gura is a small-firm lawyer who challenged Washington, D.C.’s gun ban, took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court—and won. Then, the Federal judge slashed his fees by two thirds, calling his performance unremarkable and noting that, as a small-firm lawyer, he did not have the overhead of a big firm (and should therefore be penalized for have a less-wasteful practice? I fail to see the logic, here). So there you go, solos and small-firm lawyers: you are worth less.

Carolyn Elefant has a more complete rant on this ridiculous attorney fee decision.


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  • Thanks for the link Sam. In addition to being anti-solo, that decision is also a reason that lawyers can’t trash the time sheet just yet. The discussion of the time spent on what and if it was too much or too little was exhausting.

  • Greg McIntyre

    Maybe they should pay him extra for providing superb legal services efficently by keeping a low overhead. How else are big firm lawyers going to pay off thier ivy league educations and summer in the Hamptons… Really?

  • As a general observation, I wonder about the type of practice background of the judge who rendered the decision. I think it is significantly more difficult to run an efficient practice on a budget. But then, what do I know. I have only been in solo practice in the Chicago suburbs for 20 years!

    • I think it’s safe to assume the judge was not a solo or small-firm practitioner. If he was, he must have had some serious feelings of inadequacy.

  • Ryan

    This makes my blood boil. The attorneys convinced the Supreme Court to CHANGE THE LAW. Their “skill, experience and reputation” should be at least worth the average BigLaw salary or billing rate in D.C. I don’t understand the jump to the factual conclusion that the lead counsel *could* have charged less because he is in a two-lawyer practice. Why?

    Ultimately this decision says, “I’ll set whatever I want.”

  • Not to be the contrarian, but the solo attorneys were in fact pro bono, and did not keep adequate time records. And they were going up against City Hall, who cried poor. I don’t know if any judge would grant attorneys fees at $700+ an hour, even to a big law partner.

  • TaxSmartCPA

    Thank god, I happen to like this judge. As a taxpayer, I think the judge should slash it even more…$1.1 million is still too much. Gee! I work over 80 hours every week and I am not making 6 figures. I don’t like my government spending my hard-earned money on lawyers. If the gov’t can’t pay me the market rate I am earning at my job when I am summoned to serve on the Jury, why should the gov’t pay the lawyers the BigLaw rate?