Litigating the reasonableness of attorney’s fees in a Federal Rule 23 class action is no picnic. Usually, payment of legal fees is set from a contractual arrangement between attorney and client. That is often quick and easy. Conversely, payment of class action legal fees is set by a district court. That process can be drawn out and labor intensive. In this latter situation, a district court must be persuaded, ultimately, that the amount of the award is reasonable. But what does “reasonable” mean? It is a tricky question—class action math always is—and litigating it can become contact sport.
The parties must be ready for potential opposition, objectors, and a skeptical court as attorney’s fees are a part of the entire settlement package. And then there is the perception problem: in an age when a melting pot of television talking heads, newspapers, and social media cast more and more influence on the national dialogue—in this case, this influence is anything anti-lawyer—will a court shut out such platitudes and greenlight paying lawyers gazillions of dollars? Even the late-night comedians have joined the fray, often ridiculing lawyers in their monologues. But such a mentality is not anything new. In David Copperfield, Dickens described a lawyer named Uriah Heep as one whose “lank forefinger followed up every line as he read and made clammy tracks along the page . . . like a snail.” All of this negativism, even entrenched historical negativism, is a lot to overcome.
Casurella, Jeffrey G.
"How Class Action Fees Work in the Eleventh Circuit,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 73:
3, Article 9.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol73/iss3/9