Law firm Winston wants $6.6 mln after U.S. women’s soccer equal-pay deal – Reuters.com

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(Reuters) – Law firm Winston & Strawn asked a federal judge in California on Tuesday for an award of $6.6 million in legal fees for its work on a $24 million settlement resolving equal-pay claims that the U.S. women’s national soccer team brought against governing body U.S. Soccer.

The Chicago-based law firm touted its legal services securing what it called a landmark agreement for the U.S. women’s national soccer team. The firm said its demand amounted to 30% of part of the settlement awarding damages under the U.S. Equal Pay Act.

The deal resolved a long-running dispute over claims from U.S. women soccer players that they were paid less than male players.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner preliminarily approved the settlement in August. Klausner is expected to weigh final approval at a hearing in December.

Lead plaintiffs’ attorney Jeffrey Kessler, Winston’s co-executive chair and a veteran antitrust and sports law trial lawyer, said the firm took on the players’ gender discrimination case “entirely on contingency — recognizing that there might never be payment for the thousands of hours worked or millions of dollars invested in the case.”

Kessler on Wednesday did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment about the fee petition.

A lawyer for U.S. Soccer, Jamie Wine of Latham & Watkins, did not immediately respond to a similar message. A spokesperson for U.S. Soccer also did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Kessler said in the plaintiffs’ fee petition that class member Hope Solo has objected to the deal. Solo’s lawyers described the fee request as “improper as neither reasonable nor necessary.”

An attorney for Solo, A.J. de Bartolomeo of Tadler Law, on Wednesday said she was reviewing the plaintiffs’ fee petition and that Solo’s objection “warrants the court’s attention.”

The plaintiffs’ fee filing argued that Solo “ignores the tremendous amount of work spent by class counsel to achieve an eight-figure settlement, equal pay, and equal working conditions.”

The settlement includes a $22 million payment that will be distributed to players based on individual playing time, and an additional $2 million payment will be used to create a fund to support players’ post-career initiatives.

The deal also includes an equal-pay component for current and future U.S. women’s soccer players.

The players’ fee filing showed Kessler has billed this year at $1,795 an hour, the highest amount among other Winston partners.

Winston said the firm would seek to collect fees “incrementally” over four years in a structure allowing the players “to realize millions of dollars faster.”

The case is Morgan v. U.S. Soccer Federation Inc, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 2:19-CV-01717.

For plaintiffs: Jeffrey Kessler of Winston & Strawn

For defendant: Jamie Wine of Latham & Watkins

(NOTE: This article was updated with comment from a lawyer for Hope Solo.)

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