On January 14, 2016, Judge Boyle issued an Order (available here) in Spear Marketing v. BancorpSouth Bank ruling on the prevailing defendants’ requests for attorney’s fees. The Court found that the defendants were entitled to attorney’s fees under the Texas Theft Liability Act or, alternatively, the Copyright Act. However, Judge Boyle refused to award the defendants the amounts they requested.
More specifically, Defendant Argo sought $1,190,255 in attorney’s fees, and Defendant BancorpSouth sought $711,422.74.
Argo’s requested (2015) rates ranged from $595/hour for its senior principal partner to $261/hour for its (apparently, most junior) associate. Argo requested $261/hour for its paralegals’ time. Judge Boyle found that Argo’s requested rates were not reasonable:
[T]he Court finds that [Argo’s firm’s] hourly fees charged are unreasonably inflated. Other district courts in the Northern District of Texas have found reasonable hourly rates for copyright litigation attorneys of comparable skill, experience, and reputation to range from $100 to $400 dollars. . . . Generally, fee awards for rates above $500 per hour are reserved for specialized tasks in complex cases that few attorneys are capable of handling. As for paralegals, reasonable rates range between $60 and $125 per hour.
(citations and quotations omitted).
The Court decided to “adhere to a general rate of $150 to $400 per hour for attorneys and $100 per hour for paralegals”, selected a “general rate” of $300/hour for partners (with the exception of $400/hour for Argo’s senior principal partner), $200/hour for associates, and $100/hour for paralegals. Applying these rates to the number of recoverable hours resulted in an award to Argo of $604,715—about half of what it had requested.
Defendant BancorpSouth’s firm “provided a twenty-percent discount to their standard rates lowering their rates to the range ‘from $200.00 to $228.00 for paralegals, $212.00 to $296.00 for associate attorneys, $476.00 to $532 for partners, and $748 for senior partners[.]” The Court again found that the hourly rates were not reasonable, and that the time spent on the case by Defendant BancorpSouth’s firm was “slightly excessive” resulting in a 20% reduction in the hours billed by the firm to be used when calculating the fee award. For Defendant BancorpSouth’s firm’s rates, “the court select[ed] a general rate of $250 per hour for partners, $150 per hour for associates, and $100 per hour for paralegals and legal assistants.” These rates were lower than the allowable amounts for Defendant Argo’s firm because Defendant BancorpSouth’s firm “did not act as lead counsel in this matter.” The Court ultimately awarded Defendant BancorpSouth $325,106 in attorney’s fees—again, approximately half of what it had requested.