U.S. law firm Foley Hoag says finances off-limits at expert’s fee trial

People with briefcases come out of a boardroom. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

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  • Firm asks judge to bar revenue, size evidence
  • Lawyer sued firm in 2018 over work as expert witness on Mexican commercial law

(Reuters) – Foley Hoag has urged a Washington, D.C., judge to bar any airing of the U.S. law firm’s finances at trial next month, when a former expert witness will argue he has not been paid for his work helping the firm in an arbitration matter for its client Venezuela.

Alejandro Salas Patron, a lawyer in Mexico City, sued Boston-based Foley Hoag in 2018 in District of Columbia Superior Court alleging breach of contract.

His complaint said he was retained in 2015 as an expert on commercial law in Mexico.

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Foley Hoag has denied any liability in the underlying case. Its attorneys also contend introducing any evidence of its revenue would be prejudicial and should be barred.

Salas’ lawyers in New York at Wilson Williams have said they want to be able at trial to discuss Foley’s finances to help explain the relationship between Salas and the firm.

“Salas only agreed to contract with Foley because of its reputation, size and finances in the industry,” an attorney for Salas, William Wilson of Wilson Williams, said in an Aug. 12 filing.

Wilson on Wednesday did not immediately comment.

Wilson argued in the filing that evidence of the firm’s size and finances “will permit the jury to [understand] Salas’ motivation to enter the contract.”

The complaint seeks about $92,000 in damages for alleged breach of contract. Wilson said in 2020 that Foley at the time had spent “18 months litigating instead of paying an expert fee worth approximately 0.04% of its year revenue.”

Foley Hoag lawyer Nicholas Renzler, who is defending the firm in the lawsuit, declined to comment.

Legal industry data from The American Lawyer shows Foley Hoag, employing nearly 300 attorneys, recorded about $293 million in revenue last year. This year, the firm was among other big law offices that said they would match rising compensation scales for midlevel and senior associates.

Foley’s attorneys claim in court filings that the firm’s size and revenue have no bearing on Salas’ breach of contract claim. “The probative value of this evidence (i.e., none) is far outweighed by its unfair prejudice towards Foley Hoag,” Renzler told the court on July 29.

The trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 26 before D.C. Superior Court Judge Ebony Scott.

The case is Salas Patron v. Foley Hoag, D.C. Superior Court, No. 2018CA008637B.

For plaintiff: William Wilson III of Wilson Williams

For defendant: Nicholas Renzler of Foley Hoag

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