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ANOTHER CHALLENGE TO PG&E ATTORNEYS FEES The United States trustee overseeing Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case has challenged millions of dollars in professional fees, citing the potential for redundancy in the $64.3 million incurred to date. In the latest quarterly objection to professional fees, U.S. Trustee William Neary says the army of attorneys working for bankrupt PG&E Co. and the ones representing its parent, PG&E Corp, could be billing for duplicative fees. According to PG&E Co.’s disclosure statement, its parent company intends to ask the court for $110 million for work performed by Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Dewey Ballantine and Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe. “With multiple sets of attorneys working on the same issues, it is difficult to determine the reasonableness of one firm’s fees and contribution without seeing the others’,” reads the trustee’s objection. The trustee recommends holding back 20 percent, or $2.1 million, from Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin; Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe; Cooley Godward; Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Winston & Strawn and Rothschild until the fees are determined reasonable. Neary also took issue with the long days billed by attorneys at Howard, Rice and Heller Ehrman. “In order for a professional to bill 14 or 15 hours, he or she must be at work considerably longer. This would suggest significantly decreased effectiveness at some point.” As a result, the trustee advised slashing fees for such days from 10 percent to 20 percent, or $16,000 to $32,000 for Heller and $26,750 to $53,500 for Howard, Rice. – Alexei Oreskovic LAWYERS CAN GET FEES FOR ASSISTING OTHERS Attorneys representing themselves in court may recover fees incurred by other lawyers assisting them with the case, Los Angeles’ Second District Court of Appeal ruled Monday. The decision allows attorney Terence Mix to recover more than $87,000 in fees racked up by two lawyers at L.A.’s Allen Matkins Leck Gamble & Mallory who assisted Mix in a rent dispute with landlord Tumanjan Development Corp. Justice Margaret Grignon noted in the court’s 12-page ruling that while lawyers cannot recover fees for handling cases in propria persona, they can recover the fees incurred by assisting lawyers. “It is true that Allen Matkins was not an attorney of record at all times during the prosecution and defense of the case,” she wrote. “However, Allen Matkins actively participated in the proceedings by preparing a reply and arguing a motion for summary judgment, examining attorney Mix as a witness at the trial, preparing jury instructions and a verdict form, preparing motions in limine and otherwise assisting in the preparation and presentation of the case.” Justices Orville Armstrong and Richard Mosk concurred. While the ruling upholds Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Cary Nishimoto’s ruling on Mix’s ability to recover fees, it reversed the judge’s decision to deny extra fees sought for work between January and May 2000. In the end, Mix — whom State Bar records list as residing in Hawaii — could receive more than $122,000 in fees for work done by Allen Matkins partner Charles Kenworthy and senior associate Adela Carrasco. The case is Mix v. Tumanjan Development Corp., 02 C.D.O.S. 10542. – Mike McKee NIXON PEABODY HIRES HELLER SPECIAL COUNSEL Kathryn Johnson, special counsel in Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe’s wealth services group, has moved to the San Francisco office of Nixon Peabody where she started as a partner Monday. A trusts and estates lawyer, Johnson focuses on preparation of wills and powers of attorney for health care and asset management. She also represents individuals and corporate fiduciaries in the administration of trusts, probate estates and conservatorships. According to Johnson, her book of business is worth roughly $1.5 million. “What I was looking for was a firm that from management on down very much supported the trusts and estates area,” said Johnson. “I have a lot more years to practice, I’m not getting ready to retire, so it’s a concern for me personally as well as my clients to be at a place where there’s a strong commitment.” While Heller Ehrman has three attorneys in its wealth management group, Nixon Peabody counts about 20 such lawyers and has plans to add more. Johnson’s paralegal also moved to Nixon Peabody. – Alexei Oreskovic

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