The £5.2m cost of following orders

Allen & Overy (A&O) won’t say how many trainees and paralegals it used for its work for Research In Motion (RIM) in its BlackBerry patent case against Visto.

Maybe it lost count? After all, the worker bees managed to rack up a bill of £1m out of a total bill of £5.2m. For a five-day case with no disclosure, that’s some work, no?The story has provoked some hilarious debate on www.thelawyer.com. “The word proportionality (or lack of it) comes to mind,” said one of the posters in a typical comment. However, the apparent bafflement among City lawyers was only partly theatrical.

After all, Mr Justice Floyd is not Mr Justice Mann, who was scathing about Howrey and Powell Gilbert last year in Dr Reddy’s v Eli Lilly in the Patents Court. Nor is he like former judge Hugh Laddie, who relished his outspoken reputation in IP matters.

However, Floyd J’s language was uncompromising: “Nine man-years have been spent over 15 months,” was just one of his derisive remarks in the costs judgment. (You can find more on .)

Now, having a big, fat legal bill publicised may in the end do RIM a favour and scare off future antagonists. A&O’s argument is that it simply did what the client requested – that it should leave “no reasonable stone unturned”.

But A&O was denied an interim payment, and it will be fascinating to see what the firm seeks to recover when it comes up before the costs judge.

There’s no doubt that partner Nicola Dagg is a fine litigator; she even brought RIM to A&O when she moved from Lovells 18 months ago, which is no mean feat in these days of institutionalised clients.

Meanwhile, Lovells isn’t out for the count, not a bit of it. As we reveal today, it’s still in the frame for RIM work. Perhaps its apparently unfashionable investment in a global IP practice will win it some trophies after all. And it’s considerably cheaper than A&O, if its fees on Qualcomm are anything to go by.

At a time when the City is feeling the pinch, lawyers’ bills are going to be big news. General counsel know it, journalists know it, judges know it. A&O should brace itself for some backlash.