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Hogan & Hartson was in D.C. Superior Court last week trying to convince a jury that a former client should fork over $137,000 in unpaid legal bills. The firm was also defending itself against allegations of malpractice and an ethics violation of “overlawyering” the domestic-dispute case. The suit stems from Hogan international trade partner Steven Hollman’s handling of a case between D.C. realtor John Beard and his former fiancee, Suzanne Harbour, over a Georgetown town house the two purchased together in 2000. In a jury trial, which started Aug. 30, Hogan’s lawyer, Randell Ogg of Bode & Grenier, argued that Beard entered into a contract agreement with the firm and didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. According to court documents, Hollman suggested settling the property case because he projected total costs for trial to be as “high as $200,000 each,” but Beard still insisted that Hollman do “whatever it takes to win!!” Beard’s lawyer, solo practitioner John Perazich, alleges that after receiving Hogan’s first bill, Beard and Hollman came to a verbal agreement of a $3,000 monthly retainer because that was all Beard could afford. As the suit over the town house dragged on for two years, Hollman threatened to stop representing Beard because of mounting legal bills in excess of $137,000, telling him that he either must put together a payment plan and pay $75,000 upfront or he would withdraw from the case. Beard refused to pay more than the approximately $51,000 he had already laid out and substituted divorce lawyer Mark Sandground of Sandground West & New for Hogan in February 2003. Sandground settled Beard’s case against his ex-fiancee by that August. Hogan filed suit in 2004, and Beard responded with a counterclaim, saying it was unethical for the firm to use 17 lawyers and staff on his case. In a statement the firm said: “We represented the client diligently, consulted with the client regarding all strategic decisions, and made our best efforts to resolve the case in a cost-effective manner. We believe our fees were reasonable and reflect the quality of the work done by our firm.” Perazich and Ogg could not be reached for comment. The case was expected to be submitted to the jury Sept. 1.
Anna Palmer can be contacted at [email protected].

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