Monday, November 22, 2010

$400 an Hour for Foreclosure Defense? (and Glenn Garvin).

Remember when Glenn Garvin laughably contended that the only people in foreclosure trouble were those who deserved it?

This was his particularly ill-informed contention:
For all their frothing fulmination, neither the lawyers nor politicians nor journalists have been able to come up with any credible stories of people losing their homes despite faithfully paying their mortgages. They couldn't even find stories about people losing their homes despite being just a couple of payments behind.

That's because there aren't any.
So it's not particularly surprising that Glenn Garvin's own newspaper once again proves him dead wrong, in this harrowing tale of a foreclosure nightmare gone from bad to worse.

But I found this part pretty outrageous:

Hall paid her first lawyer, Alan Soven, more than $10,000 to fight the foreclosure. At one point Judge Friedman rebuked the Miami lawyer for subpar legal work, and the Florida Bar ordered him to refund $2,000 in legal fees to Hall in a mediation settlement. With a $400 hourly rate, he charged Hall nearly $3,000 for the 7.2 hours he spent trying to get legal approval to quit the case, court records show.
Soven declined to comment on the case.
Hall's next lawyer, Johnny Kincaide of The Kincaide Law Group in Weston, routinely skipped crucial court hearings and failed to file a response to a court ruling, causing the judge to penalize Hall with an order of default. Kincaide's firm is being investigated by Attorney General Bill McCollum after several homeowners said he promised to help them get a mortgage modification and then disappeared after taking their initial deposits. He did not return calls seeking comment.
I don't know whether the allegations of legal malpractice or incompetence are true, but there's really no good reason to charge $400 an hour to handle the defense of any foreclosure action, let alone to charge the client to withdraw from the case.

Good thing there are "no credible stories" of people getting screwed over in the foreclosure morass for Glenn to write about.


Anonymous said...

I disagree about the hourly rate. There are some defenses, including complex statutory defenses, counterclaims and third party claims that would justify it, if done competently. Why should the foreclosure defense lawyer get paid less than the lawyers representing the bank? Some foreclosure defense lawyers have worked their asses off against mega-firms to uncover the fraud that is being perpetrated. Where do you think all this information about robo-signing, fake charges for service of process that was never performed; fraudulent notes, back-dated assignments, etc., is coming from? It's coming from hard-working lawyers representing homeowners. Because the government prosecutors have not been doing their jobs until recently. And, if the homeowner prevails, fees may be awardable agains the banks.

Anonymous said...

SFL, really on the billables, you got it wrong.

If some big shot attorney can charge $700.00 per hour to handle a breach of contract case and charge associates at $450.00 per hour to review discovery - all in a matter that requires raising standard affirmative defenses and run of the mill counter claims, why can't a lawyer charge $400.00 to handle a highly regulated (both State and Federal) case?

South Florida Lawyers said...

Ok, I see your point and am in total agreement that good lawyers should get paid well. I also appreciate that this type of work can be sophisticated and difficult to do properly. And if you can get it from the banks, more power to you.

I guess the issue for me is how do you reconcile that when you are dealing with borderline poverty clients for whom $100k in billables could far exceed the amounts at issue and put these people in an even bigger hole?

Anonymous said...

SFL - you are right. That is the problem with that type of work. I also think it is the problem with Bankruptcy work and family law with cases involving minimum assets.

Would you be in favor of a law, similar to estate work, that limits fees to a certain percentage in those types of matters?

fake Dan Froomkin said...

Bush's two-part argument is simple; That waterboarding was legal (i.e., that it was not really torture); and that it worked.

But neither assertion is remotely true.

Waterboarding -- essentially controlled drowning -- involves immobilizing someone and pouring water over their mouth and nose in a way that makes them choke. It causes great physical and mental suffering, but leaves no marks.

It's not new; villains and despots have been using it extract confessions for something like 700 years. The CIA just perfected it.

It is self-evidently, almost definitionally, torture. The U.S. government had always considered it torture. In 1947, the U.S. charged a Japanese officer who waterboarded an American with war crimes. It is flatly a violation of international torture conventions.

And as far as I know, no American government official had ever even suggested it wasn't torture until a small handful of lawyers in Bush's supine Justice Department, working under orders from the vice president, claimed otherwise.

These lawyers drafted a series of memos so lacking in legal merit -- and so cruel and inhuman -- that they were retracted and repudiated even by a later wave of Bush appointees.

The original "torture memo" from August 1, 2002, for instance, argued that to "rise to the level of torture" an act had to cause pain "equivalent to intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." Anything short of that, according to the memo, was OK.

Lauer asked Bush in their interview why he thought waterboarding was legal.

"Because the lawyer said it was legal," Bush replied. "He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I'm not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do."

When Lauer raised the possibility that Bush's lawyers had simply told him what they knew he wanted to hear, Bush vaguely denied it and suggested that his book might shed more light on the topic. But it doesn't, at least not much. In it, Bush writes:

Department of Justice and CIA lawyers conducted a careful legal review. They concluded that the enhanced interrogation program complied with the Constitution an all applicable laws, including those that ban torture.

I took a look at the list of techniques. There were two that I felt went too far, even if they were legal. I directed the CIA not to use them. Another technique was waterboarding, a process of simulated drowning. No doubt the procedure was tough, but medical experts assured the CIA that it did not lasting harm.

I knew that an interrogation program this sensitive and controversial would one day become public. When it did, we would open ourselves up to criticism that America had compromised our moral values. I would have preferred that we get the information another way. But the choice between security and values was real. Had I not authorized waterboarding on senior al Qaeda leaders, I would have had to accept a greater risk that the country would be attacked. In the wake of 9/11, that was a risk I was unwilling to take. My most solemn responsibility as president was to protect the country. I approved the use of the interrogation techniques.

But the choice between security and values was not real. And this is exactly the reason we have laws: To prevent people from doing what they may for some reason think at the moment is a good idea, but which society has determined is wrong. No man is above the law. And "the lawyer said it was legal" is not a sufficient excuse.

Anonymous said...

@9:14. Those are New York rates. If you know of a large firm in Miami that bills $450/hr for an associate to do doc review please identify firm and what is the level of associate doing the review? I don't have a problem with the $700/hr since we have a few of those old timers here but we certainly don't bill associates at $450, even senior associates, who shouldn't be doing doc. reviews.

Anonymous said...


You clearly are a hack that works with the likes of with G Gal. You have no clue what the real firms, with retainers larger than your minnimum of 10k, bill in this town.

Anonymous said...

@12:50. So I guess you couldn't answer the question, eh?

Anonymous said...


A: Yes, I do know of such a firm, the rates are actually higher for the associates in question. And no, I will not identify the firm. If you don't know which ones are billing that high, you should go back to your foreclosure practice and let me bill my time.

Anonymous said...

@1:48. [petulant brat having tantrum voice]: "Yes, I do know of such a firm. . . . and no, I will not identify the firm."

First, I work for a big firm, not a foreclosure mill, as you suggest. Come on, name the firm where the doc review associates in Miami are being billed at $400+ per hour. You don't have to be specific. If I know anyone there I'll call and verify that they charge those rates and your original statement will be accurate. Barring a response, you're full of shit and a douche as well.

Anonymous said...

@ 3:09

"doosh" not "douche". Thanks.

Anonymous said...

ham and schlepper alert

greenberg Gal said...

HEY! Keep me out of it. I just read now. Rarely post. Heat too high at work. They tried to flush me out.

Marty Kohn said...

Jonathan Heller doing foreclosure defense?! OY!!

Anonymous said...

Even the banks aren't paying those rates. The banks have volume firms doing the work for them. They charge some flat fee, in the range of $1500 to $2000 a case. When the lawyer does the breakdown for the court, it usually ends up amounting to 10 hours at between $150 to $200 an hour.

Amounts in excess of that are likely going to get shot down as being excessive. You can try to indicate that your worth is greater, and go for a higher sum, but it won't likely get approved for this kind of work.

Now if the banks are paying that, what do you think these folks off the street are going to be able to pay? Barely even those amounts. What's worse, is that the defense lawyer takes the money, disappears, and never even files an answer to avoid a default. He or she never even file a notice of appearance. The burden then rests on the defendant.

It's criminal.

Kissimmee Kid said...

"Would you be in favor of a law, similar to estate work, that limits fees to a certain percentage in those types of matters?"

That would be great! That is exactly what we do in tort claims against the state, limit the lawyer's fee so that no one will take the work. It works great in worker's comp, injured workers were getting lawyers, lawyers were getting the workers paid. Florida cut the fees, now there are no lawyers for injured workers. (Really, don't people who are injured get what they deserve?)

Let's cut the fees of bankruptcy lawyers, that will stop people from going bankrupt.

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