The head of a high-profile London media law firm was unsure how much work his star lawyer was doing to fulfil a 25-hours-a-week commitment, a court heard today.
Daniel Taylor, of London firm Taylor Hampton, told the High Court that media lawyer Mark Lewis had agreed ‘unconditionally’ to do the hours and that there was plenty of work to keep him occupied.
Taylor Hampton is counter-claiming for monies allegedly owed after Lewis sued for millions of pounds in allegedly unpaid fees relating to newspaper phone-hacking cases.
Lewis represented the Milly Dowler family in 2011 against the News of the World, an action which spawned a flood of litigation from claimants saying their phones had been hacked by media organisations.
Yesterday, Lewis told the court he had fulfilled his part of the bargain by bringing in clients and coverage for the firm, and claimed he was the one responsible for it winning awards for its work during the months and years after July 2011.
During cross-examination today, Taylor confirmed he had agreed the 25-hour-week contract with Lewis but did not feel the work was being done, to the extent that he calculated Lewis’s earnings by deducting £520,000 a year (assuming the lawyer was billing £400 an hour).
Taylor said: ‘Mr Lewis had ceased to attend the office and it was unclear to me what he was doing. He turned up on occasion and effectively I think he was in breach of his obligations to the firm.’
He added: ‘[Lewis] agreed unconditionally to 25 hours of work – that is only five hours a day. We’re not talking about huge amounts of time.’
The court heard that Lewis was not on a salary but was on a monthly £6,000 retainer which was repayable if the firm was not receiving fees to cover it.
Taylor was pressed by Adam Turner of 7KBW, representing Lewis, on how exactly the law firm had calculated what contribution he made overall. The court heard that Taylor had commissioned his nephew Joshua to produce a spreadsheet that showed the extent of Lewis’s involvement in attracting and retaining clients.
But the document had a number of errors and only last week Taylor admitted in a witness statement – his ninth – that nine of the client introductions were actually attributable to Lewis. The firm had previously denied these nine were down to him.
The court also heard that a lawyer from a different firm had asserted he referred clients to Taylor Hampton because of Lewis’s presence.
The case continues.