Skilling's Fees: Why Hire a Lawyer?

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The legal fees for convicted Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling remind us again of why lawyers are the subject of jokes and derision.

Don't get me wrong. Some of my best friends are lawyers. In Washington, you run into one on about every block. While I admit to laughing at some jokes about the profession, I have to admit I was thinking about law school long ago.

According to a piece in Business Week, Skilling's tab from a Los Angeles-based law firm is $70 million. For that fee, Skilling got 24 years in prison.

Skilling put $23 million into trust to help pay his bill. He got an additional $17 million from insurance available to Skilling and other Enron executives in the dock.

The firm is seeking an additional $30 million, as outlined in court filings in Houston.

The firm claims it took a squadron of 12 lawyers, five paralegals, and some temporary staffers to handle the complicated case and its stacks upon stacks of documents.

The lead lawyer in Houston filed fees at the rate of $800 per hour for his services.

There is no question the case was a puzzle of finding accountability at the top of Enron. Still, that bill seems extraordinarily stunning and excessive.

Skilling could have saved himself and his heirs a fortune by merely pleading guilty and asking for mercy from the judge. Instead, he's sitting in a federal prison in Minnesota for a long time.

Maybe I'm just jealous that I didn't follow my hunch and go to law school after service in Uncle Sam's Army. Instead I went into journalism.

Where were my loving parents when I needed them to insist I go for the big bucks?