Lawyers at a boutique family law firm in Beverly Hills, Calif., are touting a judge's award of $1 million in legal fees as one of the largest granted in a divorce case prior to trial.
Steven Knowles and Michael Collum, who founded Knowles Collum last year, received the fee award during a hearing on Aug. 12. Los Angeles County, Calif., Superior Court Judge David Cunningham granted more than $20,000 in temporary monthly spousal and child support to Kathrin Saadian in her divorce from Beverly Hills real estate investor George Saadian. A trial is scheduled in December.
"This is a large fee award by any standard, even for a large firm," said Collum, whose firm represents Kathrin Saadian. "For a small firm, I've never heard of it."
Most awards in similar cases have been closer to $250,000 to $500,000, he said.
George Saadian's attorney, Michael Abrams of the Law Offices of Michael L. Abrams in Los Angeles, threw cold water on the firm's claims, noting that some of the funds being used for the fees are going to Kathrin Saadian for payments that are in arrears. The remaining fees, he said, depend on whether the firm is able to obtain a loan on the couple's home.
Abrams said that Knowles Collum would get closer to $800,000.
According to a transcript of the hearing, Abrams, whose clients have included the late pop singer Michael Jackson, said that his firm would receive $300,000 while Knowles Collum would get $900,000. "There is definitely a discrepancy," he acknowledged in an interview.
But he questioned the significance of the Knowles Collum award, specifically pointing to the pending high-profile divorce between Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his wife, Jamie McCourt. Legal fees in that case are expected to exceed $19 million on each side.
"That's an enormous estate compared to this one," Collum conceded of the McCourt case.
Collum said that Saadian made most of his money investing in real estate in the Los Angeles area and runs a business that installs sprinkler systems in high-rise office towers. He estimated Saasdian's net worth at at least $23 million.
As for the fee award, Collum said he was confident about getting the $1 million. About half will come from $580,000 that had been frozen pending the divorce, of which $80,000 will go to arrears, he said. The balance will come from a potential loan on the couple's home in Beverly Hills, which he said has been appraised at $2.7 million.
Collum said his firm's total expenses in the case could exceed $1 million. "We anticipate, largely because of George's litigation tactics, being around $1.5 million once we get to trial," he said.