By on May 5, 2009

So far today, the only motion filed: Chrysler debtors’ application to employ Schulte Roth & Zabel (SRZ) as “special counsel” (download pdf here).

11. During the twelve-month period prior to the Petition Date, SRZ received from the Debtors an aggregate of approximately $24,710,000 for professional services performed and expenses incurred for and on behalf of the Debtors. In addition, in April 2009, the Debtors received a retainer of $2,000,000. SRZ has applied the entire retainer to fees and expenses incurred on behalf of the Debtors and its current balance is $0.

12. The customary hourly rates of SRZ attorneys are as follows: (a) between $715 and $880 for partners, (b) between $645 and $670 for special counsel, (c) between $265 and $615 for associates, and (d) between $110 and $305 for legal assistants.

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10 Comments on “Today’s Chrysler Court Docs: Debtors’ Lawyers Get $24.7 Million. So Far....”

  • avatar

    $110 and $305 for legal assistants.

    You think the legal assistants make anywhere near $100/hr? That works out to $200,000 a year. Even with overhead I don’t know how it’s conscionable to charge those fees, let alone $800/hr for an attorney’s time when money is already being burned by the cartload. I’m sure that attorneys will say that they are handling a billion dollar bankruptcy so they are entrusted with a lot of responsibility. Airplane pilots have a lot of responsibility and they don’t make $800/hr. Neither does Judge Gonzalez who is presiding over Chrysler’s bankruptcy.

    Court appointed criminal defense attorneys work for a flat rate of $250 a day. If that’s good enough to protect your liberty, it should be sufficient to protect your property. The court should open legal representation in bankruptcy proceedings to the lowest bidder. I’m sure there are plenty of lawyers around Detroit that would take the job for less than a two million dollar retainer.

  • avatar

    Court appointed criminal defense attorneys work for a flat rate of $250 a day.

    Which is why the people they represent get convicted 95% of the time…

    You definitely get what you pay for….

  • avatar

    @ Ronnie Schriber:

    The $110 – $305 is what the firm charges Chrysler, not what they’re paying the assistant. But still, these are on the higher side of the scale.

  • avatar

    How did I know that the lawyers were the ones who’d be getting fat over the corpse of Chrysler?

    Next, entree’ – General Messup. I mean, Government Motors.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    I think we should all become freelance legal assistants.

  • avatar

    This is actually a pretty standard rate in the industry – top paralegals get 130K a year, at least in NYC. Also, keep in mind the firm will get a profit on what they bill the various members for – they may charge $110 an hour and pay the person $55 an hour.

    Yes, it’s all horribly overpriced. I’d recommend talking to Congress, but since they’re all lawyers, good luck!

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    One cannot be surprised by any of this.

    Disgusted, yes, but not surprised.

  • avatar


    “top paralegals get 130k a year”…working suicide hours (NYC). The base pay is generally around 55-65k (senior paras), the hours required to double that (and more) could literally kill you at your desk. Trial specialists have more negotiating leeway, but not much. Maybe all costs included, health, dental, taxes etc…

    Ronnie Schreiber
    $110 and $305 for legal assistants.

    You’re right, most of that goes into overhead (and it’s actually a low hourly rate). These bills are a hopeful suggestion and I’m sure everyone involved knows full well that a bankruptcy judge will not be paying them in full.

    EDIT: scratch “will not be paying them in full”. I didn’t realize whose counsel was at issue.

  • avatar

    Which is why the people they represent get convicted 95% of the time…

    You definitely get what you pay for….

    Actually, a couple of good friends are attorneys that do criminal work, both court appointed and on retainer, and they’re in agreement that the reason why most criminal defendants with court appointed attorneys get convicted is that they are indeed guilty. Even Alan Dershowitz says that and he’s one of the highest paid defense attorneys in the country. Dershowitz’ first rule of criminal defense is that the vast majority of defendants are guilty of some crime (rule #2 is that we ignore rule #1, rule # 3 is that police lie and rule # 4 is that we ignore rule #3).

    So most defendants are indeed perps.

    That’s how it should be in a free society that presumes innocence. By the time a criminal defendant comes to trial, the case has been vetted pretty thoroughly. First there are the investigating detectives, then an assistant DA decides if there’s probable cause, then possibly a grand jury, then a preliminary hearing.

    To be sure, the job of the cops is to arrest somebody, and the job of prosecutors is to convict whoever the cops arrest. Justice is sometimes not served, but for the most part there aren’t many innocent folks in jail.

    I’m no fan of cops but for the most part if you find yourself as a defendant in a criminal proceeding in the US, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ve broken the law.

    Proverbs say that the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong.
    Damon Runyon added, “but that’s sure the way to bet”. Same thing with criminal defendants.

  • avatar

    The $110 – $305 is what the firm charges Chrysler, not what they’re paying the assistant.

    That was my point. There’s a lot of overhead and markup on the work of junior lawyers and assistants.

    When I charge for an embroidery job I can’t charge more if I’m the one trimming the jump stitches or if I pay a high school kid to do it. Lawyers like to preserve the culture where senior lawyers get paid more money but it’d be interesting to see some statistical data. Do more expensive lawyers win more cases?

    The bar is a little bit clubby to an outsider.

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