It’s not uncommon these days to see law firms suing former clients over unpaid legal bills. Still, this latest bit of legal fee litigation seems remarkable: Williams & Connolly is taking a former client to court over $2 million after the company practically invited the firm to sue.
Or so says Williams & Connolly’s complaint, filed Friday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. According to the filing, the firm billed telecommunications company IDT $3 million for representing one of its subsidiaries in a patent case. Afterwards, in September 2008, IDT’s CEO allegedly traveled to Washington to meet with Williams & Connolly heavy hitter Brendan Sullivan Jr. in order to work out a payment plan. They agreed to a deal where IDT would pay three installments of $1 million dollars over two years.
But after the first million, IDT allegedly stopped paying. According to the complaint, Williams & Connolly then received a visit from Shmuel Jonas, the son of IDT founder and chair Howard Jonas. The younger Jonas allegedly informed Williams & Connolly that his father had no intention of paying the balance of his company’s legal bills.
The complaint states that Jonas “acknowledged that Williams & Connolly would win in court if Williiams & Connolly filed a lawsuit to enforce the agreement.” But according to the complaint, Jonas also “explained that his father had concluded that IDT ‘could harass Williams & Connolly for a couple of years and then settle out of court for a reduced amount.’”
Apparently Williams & Connolly is pretty confident in its chances too. An associate, Beth Stewart, is the only lawyer listed on the complaint. Neither side immediately returned calls for comment.