CT Attorney Edward Nusbaum’s retainer agreements do not permit clients to have discovery.
If they later end up in a legal dispute over his billings, there may be little they can do.
This unusual retainer agreement has come front and center in the lawsuit Nusbaum v. Riordan.
Nusbaum claims Riordan owes him $64,809 in unpaid invoices.
Coincidentally, Nusbaum holds $64,000 of Riordan’s money in his attorney’s client account. He wants to move the money into his personal account.
Karen Riordan is in a lawsuit with Edward Nusbaum over his billings.
Riordan objected. She found it hard to believe Nusbaum did $98,163.50 worth of legal services, even at his $750 per hour rate.
Nusbaum represented Riordan for four months in 2020 in her divorce and custody matter, Ambrose v. Riordan. His average $24,541 monthly billings don’t correspond, she thinks, to any measurable work he did.
Nusbaums’ four months of invoices show multiple emails and phone calls, five telephone status conferences with the judge, consults with other attorneys, and one court appearance.
Nusbaum is suing Riordan, arguing she has no right to question his billings.
Edward Nusbaum has practiced for decades in Fairfield County
Nusbaum’s retainer agreement requires any lawsuit he has with his clients to be resolved not before a judge or jury, and not by the American Arbitraton Assolciation, where there are well-established rules governing mediation.
CT Superior Court Judge Charles Lee raised an eyebrow when he read Nusbaum’s arbitration clause does not specify AAA mediation.
Family law is a specialized practice. Most family law attorneys in any county know each other. They are, have been, and will work on various cases together.
Nusbaum’s retainer with his clients reads. “Any and all disputes between you, the Firm and/or its employees shall be adjudicated by one arbitrator, who shall be an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Connecticut, and who shall be a member of the Connecticut Bar Association’s Family Law Section, and who shall maintain offices in Fairfield County.”
Nusbaum’s retainer also reads that clients “agree to waive the right to conduct discovery during the arbitration.”
When Judge Lee read the no-discovery clause, he said it was highly unusual.
Without discovery, the client has only Nusbaum’s invoices as proof that he did the work he says he did.
When asked by Frank Report about no discovery, Nusbaum admitted, “It’s not a standard clause.”
Nusbaum said, “If they want to sign [the retainer], we will represent them…. I’m not gonna waste three weeks of my time, at my hourly rate, sitting with a jury to prove… the client was wrong, and I was right. I haven’t lost yet. I never lost in arbitration.”
But the old fox Nusbaum might have slipped this time.
His four months of invoices include very few details about his work.
They show to whom he spoke on the phone, to whom he sent and received emails and the dates he did this.
How would anyone know if the old badger was fudging his billing? But in this case, the wily Nusbaum may have been caught in the snare trap.
Usually Nusbaum’s client would not have corroboration of whether he made a phone call to another attorney.
With his no-discovery provision, she only gets Nusbaum’s bills. She has only the good word of attorney Nusbaum, even if the bill is almost $100,000 for mostly phone calls.
Because there is no discovery, the client can’t even look at his phone records to see if he placed the calls.
But the silver rabbit may have jumped too far. Just a slight mistake, and he may get caught in the old rabbit trap, and might one day be served as Nusbaum stew.
Many of his calls and emails on his invoices were to the guardian ad litem [GAL] in the case. Thousands of dollars in phone calls and emails to the GAL Jocelyn Hurwitz.
GAL Jocelyn Hurwitz
Attorney Hurwitz is GAL for the children in Riordan’s custody dispute. GAL Hurwitz billed $400 per hour, and over two years on the case, she billed more than $190,000.
The GAL represents the children, but bills the parents. Her invoices are meticulous.
So we have Hurwitz’s billings. These include the four months Nusbaum represented Riordan. We have at least one way to check the honesty of the good lawyer Nusbaum.
For every phone call he spent billable time speaking to GAL Horwitz – at $750 per hour, we checked to find a match on Horwitz’s invoices.
Hurwitz’s retainer allows her to charge by 1/10th of an hour, just like Nusbaum’s. If they spend six minutes or more, they can bill the client.
GAL Hurwitz works for a large law firm, Cohen and Wolf. Billings is how the firm earns its money – billing by the hour, divisible by 1/10 hours. It is not likely she would be derelict on her billings.
Nusbaum represented Riordan from May 2020 to August 2020 — four months. Nusbaum’s invoices to Riordan include 36 phone calls to GAL Hurwitz.
But Hurwitz only billed for speaking to Nusbaum 12 times.
To be clear, Nusbaum billed Riordan 36 times for calls to Horwitz, but Hurwitz billed Riordan for only 12 phone calls with him.
There are 24 Nusbaum phone calls not found on Hurwitz’s bills.
Unless someone can come up with another explanation why two attorneys who both bill by the 1/10th hour would have such a discrepancy, Nusbaum billed Riordan for 24 fictional calls.
It becomes more apparent why Nusbaum wanted a “no-discovery” clause.
Two-thirds of Nusbaum’s phone call billings (24/36) do not match GAL Hurwitz’s billings.
Yet if they were really speaking on the phone, they both would be billing Riordan.
Nusbaum’s Phone Calls with GAL Hurwitz
Billed at $750/hr. by Nusbaum; $400/hr. by GAL Hurwitz
Nusbaum Billed for 36 calls with GAL Hurwitz. 24/36 not supported by Hurwitz billing records.
Review the bills side by side:
Phone Call Dates
Honey-sweet May, when the birds sing and flowers bloom, and Ed Nusbuam was busy billing for phone calls.
5/7/20– Unsupported by Hurwitz Records
Green and wet and full of light, the month of June “trembled like a butterfly.” But Nusbaum’s billings were flighty, and unsupported most times.
If in June, we picked the clover. With July, Nusbuam turned over a new leaf. For four straight billing days, his phone calls matched Hurwitz’s.
But echoes fade and memories die. Nusbuam missed the 5th billing date in July.
And the rest of the month did not match up at all.
I can well imagine Nusbaum saying “Here I am in July, and why am I thinking about Christmas pudding?”
‘July was done felled by the knife of August sun.’
Nusbaum’s last month of billings ended with a mash of the fake and the real.
Half of Nusbaum’s Email Billings Do Not Match Either
Nusbaum and GAL Hurwitz were in email communication. But Nusbaum billed twice the number of emails or reviews of emails as Hurwitz.
Remember, lawyers bill for composing and reviewing emails. If Nusbaum wrote an email to Hurwitz, she would bill for reviewing.
And vice versa.
Nusbaum billed for reviewing or composing 32 emails, while Hurwitz only billed for 16.
If it takes time to compose and read an email. How did Nusbaum spend 1/10 of an hour or more reading an email, which Hurwitz spent less than six minutes writing?
We might never know the answer since Nusbaum does not permit clients to have discovery.
On some days, Nusbaum billed Riordan for reviewing and composing emails to Hurwitz. But she neither billed for composing nor reviewing any emails to or from Nusbaum to Riordan that day.
Half (16/32) of the Email Communications Don’t Match
Hurwitz’s email billings are precise. She calls a telephone call a “TC” and emails “communications.’
Half the time, there is no corroboration.
- 5/7/20 Supported
- 5/8/20 Supported
- 5/11/20 Supported
- 5/12/20 Supported
- 5/18/20 Unsupported
- 5/21/20 Unsupported
- 5/26/20 Unsupported
- 5/27/20 Unsupported
- 5/28/20 Supported
- 5/29/29 Supported
- 6/3/20 Unsupported
- 6/5/20 Unsupported
- 6/5/20 Unsupported
- 6/11/20 Supported
- 6/17/20 Unsupported
- 6/19/20 Unsupported
- 6/22/20 Supported
- 6/24/20 Unsupported
- 7/2/20 Supported
- 7/6/20 Supported
- 7/7/20 Unsupported
- 7/9/20 unsupported
- 7/10/20 Supported
- 7/14/20 Unsupported
- 7/20/20 Unsupported
- 7/22/20 Supported
- 7/28/20 Supported
- 7/29/20 Unsupported
- 7/30/20 Supported
- 8/11/20 Supported
- 8/12/20 Unsupported
- 8/14/20 Supported
Status Conferences? Were they scheduled?
Clients usually do not attend status conferences.
Status conferences are sometimes held by teleconference. Sometimes they are in-person meetings with judges and attorneys.
Nusbaum billed Riordan for five status conferences. However, some of them may not have occurred.
6/2/2020- Status Conference Held
7/23/20 Status Conference Held/Deceptive billing
8/3/20 – Possibly No Status Conference.
8/24/20 Status Conference Held
8/25/20 Possibly No Status Conference
Other oddities appear.
Nusbaum billed Riordan for inter- office conferences with Atty Harold W. Haldeman at $700 per hour on several occasions. It is unknown what Haldeman did, but the two of them huddled together would be charging $1450 per hour.
Who is Aidan Welsh?
Another curious item on the billings is the name of an attorney, Aidan Welsh. Welsh had nothing to do with Riordan’s case.
Attorney Aidan Welsh of Schoonmaker George Blomberg Bryniczka
On 5/8/20, 5/14/20 and 6/4/20 Nusbuam charged Riordan for his work with Aidan Welsh for about $1000. One wonders if Welsh ever heard of Riordan.
NUSBAUM RELEASED BUT BILLING CONTINUED.
No one can stop an attorney from coming to a court hearing if he wants. But he can’t bill his former client when she has a new attorney and discharged him from service.
On 8/27/20, Nusbaum showed up at a hearing before Judge Jane Grossman. Judge Grossman told Nusbaum he could watch, but could not speak on behalf of his former client.
She had released him from the file.
Oddly, Nusbaum did not sit with spectators or with his former client. He sat with the opposition, Chris Ambrose, and his attorney Nancy Aldrich and GAL Hurwitz, whose billings failed to match his more than 50 percent of the time.
Nusbaum billed Riordan $1875.00 for his appearance in court that day to sit with her opponents after his client discharged him.
It is ironic in a sad and twisted way. This was the only time Nusbaum ever appeared in court on Riordan’s matter.
When he did appear, he sat with the opposition and huddled with the GAL. The same GAL claimed to have called and sent many emails, but her billings did not match his.
Why did Riordan fire Nusbaum?
Her day in court was vital to her. She expected Nusbaum would be there at her side fighting.
She also thought there was ample money out of the $100,000 she paid him.
Edward Nusbaum bills at $750 per hour.
Nusbaum told her before the hearing that the $100,000 retainer was extinguished by work he had already done.
Riordan was flabbergasted. How could that be? What had he done for $100,000?
Nusbaum said, if you want to complete the hearing and want me to appear in court, you must replenish the retainer.
Riordan asked, “how much?”
Nusbaum said, “I need another $100,000.”
Some of Nubaum’s billings was time he spent calling her friend and her father to determine how much more money Riordan could pay him.
He must have known there was not much more to milk on this matter. Riordan had liquidated an IRA, sold her house, and borrowed from friends to pay him the first $100,000.
Now he wanted another $100,000. He did not get it, because she had no more money to pay him.
Now it is time to find out what happened to the first $100,000.
There may be more than disbarment in the wind for Nusbaum. This may be an open-and-shut case of criminal fraud.