UPDATE: 2:48 p.m.
McDermott Will & Emery is suing a client for $606,000 in unpaid legal bills, alleging that the company abruptly stopped paying for services provided by a lawyer it had worked with for more 30 years.
The client, Mountain View, Wy.-based Union Telephone Co., allegedly owes payment for bills accrued between November 2008 and April 2009, according to the complaint filed Friday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
According to the complaint, Union retained McDermott partner Shirley Fujimoto more than three decades ago, when it was expanding from a small family company to a regional telecommunications provider Fujimoto monitored issues before the Federal Communications Commission and Congress on the company’s behalf, while assisting it with a variety of other legal issues.
According to the complaint, Fujimoto has been at two different firms while representing Union. Neither the complaint, nor her official law firm biography note her prior firm, or when she joined McDermott.
Last November, Union began refusing to pay for legal services McDermott had provided and requested several years worth of billing records. After receiving the records, the complaint states, Union still refused to pay.
“Prior to November 2008 and over the entire course of the thirty-year engagement, Union never contacted Fujimoto or McDermott regarding concerns about invoices or billing grievances,” the complaint states.
McDermott is represented by Steptoe & Johnson partners Roger Warin and Steven Davidson. Union, which has yet to respond in court, did not immediately return an e-mail requesting comment.
Tony Vehar, a lawyer for Union, said his company had been negotiating with McDermott over the dispute as late as yesterday. He said there had been no mention of a lawsuit.
“I’m just struck by this,” Vehar said. “I’m just absolutely surprised by this.”