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Attorneys' fees in a class action have to be approved by the court, and for large class actions the percentage fee tends to be lower than what a privately-retained lawyer would receive. The privately-retained lawyers in NTP's lawsuit against Blackberry got an approximately 1/3 payout of a $600 million settlement. 20-33% is quite typical in a pure contingency situation. Most court-approved fee awards in class actions that large ($100m+) tend to be a lot lower than that, in the 10-20% range. Courts usually will demand that attorneys submit their billing records (or summaries thereof) along with their fee petitions, and will regularly cut down any fee requests that exceed a certain multiple of what the attorneys invested in the case.

This case is typical: https://www.paymentcardsettlement.com/Content/Documents/Orde.... $5.7 billion settlement, about $500 million in attorneys' fees, or less than 10% of the fund. $160 million worth of time invested by the attorneys to get to that point.

> And you can't make any kind of cost argument because a billion dollar case isn't anymore complex than a million dollar case.

That's not true at all. Big dollar value cases involve either large harms to relatively fewer people, or relatively small harms to large numbers of people. The former kind of case often involves complex subject matter, such as financial transactions, medicines, etc. The latter kind of case often involves a very diverse class and complex issues of causation and damages. Consider the TicketMaster lawsuit: the basic theory of damages is that class members would not have purchased the tickets had they known that TicketMaster was marking up things like UPS charges. Well, clearly lots of class members would have purchased the tickets anyway. Coming up with a realistic damages model in that scenario is difficult. Furthermore, in big consumer class actions like that you've got class members in fifty states with fifty different sets of laws.




Is it weird to also observe that the opposition in a billion dollar case will be significantly more expensive to overcome than in a million dollar case? It seems obvious to me that billion-dollar cases would be more expensive to pursue.


Definitely. E.g. for a $1 million case, the defense likely won't even hire an expert. For a $1 billion case, you'll be responding to thousands of pages of expert reports prepared by half a dozen PhDs in various specialties (and deposing them, fighting over the admissibility of their opinions and the reliability of their methods, etc.). Not to mention that you'll get buried in discovery, etc.


Still, class attorneis will settle faster and for less. That often drives total comp and remedies a order of magnitude more than fees percents, like in the recent antipoaching litigation.


>Attorneys' fees in a class action have to be approved by the court, and for large class actions the percentage fee tends to be lower than what a privately-retained lawyer would receive.

>$5.7 billion settlement, about $500 million in attorneys' fees, or less than 10% of the fund. $160 million worth of time invested by the attorneys to get to that point.

How often to private retained attorneys get $320 million in pure profit. Additionally the 'time invested' already has income for all of the involved lawyers.


This is contingency work. The winning cases have to pay for the losing cases. When they lose, the lawyers invest $160MM worth of very real payroll and consulting fees and get nothing.




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