The Honorable Anthony J. DePanfilis
Norwalk Probate Court
Ea s t Avenue
P.O. Box 2009
Norwalk, CT 06852-2009
Re: 2010 Billing by Shipman and Goodwin for Estate of Johnson Lee
Dear Judge DePanfilis,
Just over a year ago, on November 30, 2009 I wrote you a letter regarding my concerns about over billing practices by Shipman and Goodman, for administering and performing legal work for the Johnson Lee Estate. Fast-forward a year, to Shipman and Goodwin' s 2010 invoices and nothing has changed. The 2010 bills totaling $457,000, covering for the most part, a thirteen-month period, are as problematic as their prior bills. The conflict of interest issue that I raised with you last year, continues to prevent Attorney Gustafson's ability to reign in his firm's billing practices. He continues to serve as the fox guarding the henhouse. More recently, in a November 23, 2010 Objection to the Shipman and Goodwin, LLP invoices, I along with other beneficiaries again advised you of the administrator's over billing and conflict of interest issue. In that objection we requested that this court
order an independent review of past and present Shipman and Goodwin invoices, to protect the estate against conflict of interest and the possibility that legal bills will drive the estate into insolvency.
Table 1 contains, as with my 2009 letter, examples of endless duplicative billings by attorneys and paralegals. Particularly shameful are duplicate billings by two, three, even four attorneys for the same meetings or hearings. Table I also underscores that Shipman and Goodwin continue to overstaff and bill at high paralegal rates for secretarial tasks.
Exploitative billings continue for basic property management tasks at $395/hour attorney rates as shown in Table 2. During the thirteen-month period between September 2009 and October 20 I 0, Shipman
and Goodwin billed a total of 447,300.50. The firm's monthly bum rate during that period was $34,407.31 per month. For the $267,072 administrative bill alone, the bum rate was $20,544 per month. Two paralegals listed in the administrative bill during the thirteen month period billed $134,638.70 for a paralegal administrative bum rate of
$10,356.82 per month. The use of resources in opposing Jonathan Le e ' s claims that the Devonwood Properties were owned by the JL Development Group LP was outrageous. Shipman and Goodwin assigned one of their top partners to write a brief at the rate of
$500 per hour, and had him meet with two other partners to discuss the brief. Conferring among three partners' approaches $1300 per hour - all of which was billed. There is no question that if Shipman and Goodman were billing a private client using this billing structure, they would have been fired long ago. To eliminate the dark cloud of doubt surrounding the current billings, I URGE YOU TO PUT THE BRAKES ON SHIPMAN AND GOODWIN AND LIMIT THE
PAYMENT OF THE CURRENT INVOICES TO $150,000 as requested in the November 23,2010 Objection to the Shipman and Goodwin, LLP Invoices. Until such time that all their invoices, both past and current are adjusted to eliminate over billings by an affordable neutral professional with strong expertise in reasonable and appropriate administrative and legal billing practices that serve to protect
the solvency of the estate, I urge you not to consider any further payments to Shipman and Goodwin.
Finally, TO STOP THE BLEEDING OF THE ESTATE BY SHIPMAN AND GOODWIN, I further urge you to also deny any future billings by them unless these bills are also adjusted to eliminate over billings by an affordable neutral professional with strong expertise in reasonable and appropriate administrative and legal billing practices that serve to protect the solvency of the estate before submission to the court for hearing.