Davis Wright Tremaine has sued the company behind popular Oakland, California, macaroni and cheese restaurant Homeroom, claiming that the eatery owes more than $40,000 in unpaid legal fees and interest.
The lawsuit, filed late last month in San Francisco Superior Court, claims that Little Mac LLC, which does business as Homeroom, hired the firm in September 2016, but has refused to pay its bills for work done from May through June 2017.
“Excluding interest, Little Mac still owes DWT $37,690.23 for services rendered,” wrote firm partner Sanjay Nangia in the July 26 complaint. “This balance is now more that six (6) months past due.”
The firm claims that interest has accrued at the rate of $12.44 per day and is asking for $41,421.58 in fees and interest.
Just why the fee dispute is playing out in public wasn’t immediately clear. The engagement agreement between the firm and the restaurant, which was included as an attachment to the complaint, includes a provision that each side has the right to request arbitration under the California Business & Professions Code in the case of a “fee dispute.”
In response to an email sent to Nangia and Davis Wright’s Don Buder, the partner who signed off on the engagement letter with the restaurant, a firm spokesman declined to comment beyond the court papers.
According to the September 2016 engagement letter, Buder charged Homeroom $675 per hour for work on “pending business and real estate matters.” Buder’s firm bio says that he serves as “a strategic legal advisor and corporate counsel to food and beverage, food tech, and ag tech innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors.” The engagement letter also said that then-associate Vipul Kumar charged $435 per hour and associate Drew Patterson charged $420 per hour, although the firm reserved the right to change rates and assign other lawyers to work for Homeroom.
The restaurant’s website says that the idea from Homeroom came to Wade while she was still practicing. “Coming home from a long day as a lawyer, she realized that there was no restaurant she could go to that would have mac and cheese as delicious as the one she grew up eating—so she pulled up her dad’s family recipe and started cooking,” the site says. “Her craving, and the warm feeling that came with satisfying it, made her realize that she wanted to open the kind of restaurant she wished she could’ve gone to that night: a friendly, familiar place serving up the best mac and cheese on earth.”
Earlier this year, Wade wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post about the system the restaurant has developed to deal with instances when employees are harassed by customers.