There’s just something about riding on crowded Amtrak trains that causes Biglaw attorneys to lose all of their inhibitions. From fondling one another to making $300,000 partnership offers to casually discussing future layoffs, their indiscretion knows no bounds. Perhaps they choose to throw caution to the wind because they think no one cares about the business of law, or that no one is really listening to what they’re saying or watching what they’re doing, but that’s simply not the case. We’ve got eyes and ears everywhere, and no one is safe.

Today’s Biglaw blind item occurred on yet another Amtrak train, and deals with some longstanding archetypes: an attorney who “sounded like a real jerk” and a law student who “sounded desperate.” It seems like this attorney has hate in his heart for his firm’s summer associates…

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train tracks.jpgWelcome to the latest installment of Legal Fee Voyeurism, in which we dish about how much lawyers are getting paid for their labors.
Today’s subject: Amtrak, the federally subsidized passenger railroad that’s a perennial source of bad news. From the AP:

Amtrak cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary legal expenses, an independent investigator said Wednesday.

The legal department of the federally subsidized passenger railroad failed to properly manage its outside law firms, which charged $103 million from June 2002 through June 2005, according to a review by the Transportation Department’s inspector general.

We knew Amtrak was expensive. We didn’t know it was THAT expensive.*
Here are some of Amtrak’s infractions:

The report found that Amtrak didn’t review law firms’ bills, didn’t request budgets and didn’t scrutinize bills. The railroad also hired expensive big-city law firms without requiring them to compete for its business, the report said.

Now you’re wondering: Which major law firms had Amtrak bend over and grab its proverbial ankles?
Here’s what various top firms billed Amtrak in the period from June 2002 to June 2005 (from the WSJ Law Blog):

* Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford: $11,566.986.59
* Manatt, Phelps & Phillips: $7,381,430.82
* DLA Piper: $4,089,506.09
* Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociata: $3,535,246.22
* Anderson, Rasor & Partners: $3,086,981.63
* Morgan, Lewis & Bockius: $2,847,354.21
* Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman: $2,710,145.07
* Jackson Lewis: $1,353,357.76
* Vedder, Price, Kaufman & Kammholz: $1,146,223.37

Forget about the Acela. It’s far more fun to ride the Amtrak Outside Counsel Gravy Train. ALL ABOARD!!!
* The high price of Amtrak tickets is one reason we risk life and limb by taking the Chinatown bus. It’s tough to beat a $35 round-trip ticket between Washington and New York.
The Amtrak Report: Trouble Among the Legal Dispatchers [WSJ Law Blog]
Report: Amtrak Cost Taxpayers Millions [Associated Press]
Earlier: Prior editions of Legal Fee Voyeurism (scoll down)