Simpson judges

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. 

Tip Off ROF


Not at Cleary and not a fan of Cleary's 08 April 22 09:02

The rate may be high, but overall costs of 70k is modest. That is what a memo costs in such places. - I don't think they requested even all of their fees.


Anon 08 April 22 09:25

Of course the irony is that many competition QCs won't even show up for a one day CMC for less than £25k.

Ultimately, whilst £1,100 is undoubtedly a lot of money (and you can definitely get a QC for less than that such that it is hard to justify), it strikes me that across the City, and particularly the US firms, £1,000 is probably being billed quite frequently and a mid to senior level associate at a decent City firm is likely to be over £500 per hour.

Anonymous 08 April 22 11:50

I lol at this when unqualified costs negotiators argue this should have been done at grade C or D rates with minor supervision from a grade B all at National 2 rates due to location of parties.

Anonymous 08 April 22 11:51

£1,100 per hour?  Well you have to pay for all those massive salaries for the new qualifiers, and I guess you will need to book 2200 hours to boot.

LitigatorABC 08 April 22 12:38

The headlines masked the fact that Cleary successfully defended its client for a claim for almost £1m and recovered 75% of the costs the client spent on having Cleary represent it from the other side. That’s pretty good value for money. A 75% recovery in commercial cases on a standard assessment is also a good result.

In fact, if you look at the judgement, the other side Covington instructed a QC plus a junior whereas Cleary only instructed a junior.

Bar 08 April 22 14:37

Given that solicitors simply provide admin support to counsel and sit at the back of court, taking notes, these hourly rates are ludicrous. 

Anonymous 09 April 22 07:46

Time to get rid of the duplication between solicitors and barristers. Only one is needed at court.

anon 09 April 22 15:08

“Given that solicitors simply provide admin support to counsel and sit at the back of court”

you’ve never done any litigation have you 

anon 11 April 22 13:48

anon 09 April 22 15:08: on the contrary, Bar 08 April 22 14:37 seems to know full well how litigation works. All the real work is done by the barristers. The solicitors just do case management - a well paid secretarial function. No wonder US litigators think their English counterparts are a joke.

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