Defense lawyers for Attorney General Edwin Meese III spent the greatest portion of their time -- 1,505 hours billed at $155,858.75 -- contesting allegations that he failed to disclose a $15,000 loan to his wife from one his aides, Edwin Thomas, and gave Thomas a federal job in return, according to court documents filed yesterday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had asked the lawyers to detail their charges for defending Meese on each of 12 issues investigated by independent counsel Jacob A. Stein, who found no basis for bringing charges against Meese.

Lawyers E. Robert Wallach and Leonard Garment and Garment's firm, Dickstein Shapiro & Morin, charged $720,924 for defending Meese. They earlier gave the court day-by-day diaries showing time spent and fees.

The court must rule on Meese's application for federal payment of the fees under an amendment to the Ethics in Government act.

According to the documents, these other charges were made:

* An allegation that sale of Meese's house in La Mesa, Calif., was connected to a federal job given to Thomas Barrack, who arranged the sale, consumed the second largest amount of time: 1,117 1/2 hours, $127,213.75 in legal fees and $9,005.36 in expenses.

* An allegation that loans to Meese arranged by John McKean and McKean's appointment to the U.S. Postal Board of Governors accounted for the third largest amount of time: 937 hours, $101,397.50 in fees and $6,799.20 in expenses.

* Allegations that Meese received preferential treatment when he was promoted in the Army Reserve took 971 1/2 hours, $95,537.50 in fees and $5,707.20 in expenses.

* Allegations that Meese improperly received a $10,000 check from the Presidential Transition Trust took 664 3/4 hours, $66,385 in fees and $6,009.80 in expenses.

* His receipt of cuff links worth more than the $140 limit on gifts from foreign governments required the least amount of time: 61.75 hours, $6,070 in fees and $369.84 in expenses.

The lawyers also devoted relatively little time to issues involving Meese's receipt of payments from the William Moss Institute and whether Meese and his wife helped procure federal grants for American University and Pepperdine University.

In an affidavit submitted with the itemization, Meese wrote that he was not represented by lawyers during 10 of the 11 investigations into his finances and other matters by government agencies and congressional subcommittees before Stein's probe. The court asked Meese last month to supply such information.

Meese said he was represented by lawyers only during the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into allegations that he and his wife engaged in insider trading. That preceded Stein's investigation by a "matter of days," according to the documents.

Wallach and Garment represented Meese during the SEC investigation but did not charge him for their time on that issue, according to the documents.

In his affidavit, Meese said he was told of the SEC investigation by John M. Fedders, then director of the SEC enforcement division.

Meese wrote in his affidavit that he did not retain counsel until it "became clear" that there would be an independent counsel's investigation.

Meese wrote that "comprehensive legal representation" was important during Stein's investigation partly "to help ensure that the published findings of the investigation are as accurate and complete as possible."

Such comprehensive legal representation, he wrote, was "in the interests of both the public and public official who is under investigation."