The judges are shown Cleary's fees
The Court of Appeal has lambasted Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton for charging £1,131 an hour in a competition dispute.
The court was assessing what costs Cleary's client, LG Display, could recover after it successfully defended an action brought by Samsung.
The lawyers for Samsung told the court that Cleary's fees were "well above the guideline hourly rates" set out in the White Book.
Cleary's fees included £1,131 an hour for one of its top lawyers, which was more than double the rate of £512 recommended in the guidelines. Cleary acknowledged that their fees were in excess of the guidelines, but argued "that is almost always the case in competition litigation."
Lord Justice Males said that “in substantial and complex litigation an hourly rate in excess of the guideline figures may sometimes be appropriate”. But there was "no justification at all" for charging such high sums in this case, as Cleary had not provided sufficient reasons for departing from the guideline rates.
"It is not enough to say the case is a commercial or competition case, or it has an international element, unless there is something about these factors in the case in question which justifies exceeding the guideline rate,” said the judge.
The court accepted Cleary's argument that the firm had allocated work to junior members where possible. But concluded that the fees were excessive as the matter was not document-heavy and concerned a "modest" claim of £900,000.
Having giving Cleary a ticking off, the court considered how much LG Display could recover from Samsung. Cleary's costs were £73,000 but the court decided that Samsung would pay £55,000 to LG Display instead.
Cleary declined to comment.