Sunday, October 18, 2009

How not to practice law: try to recover expenses from your client after you agreed not to do it

Here is another addition to our on going series on "how not to practice law": don't know the terms of your own fee agreement!

It relates to something we covered in class the other day. As you probably remember, the Rules in most jurisdictions state that attorneys can advance court costs and expenses of litigation. Having paid for these expenses, the attorney has a right to recover these expenses, but the recovery of those advances is typically contingent on the result of the litigation. This is so, to avoid the unpleasant situation of having a lawyer going after a client to recover money after the client just lost a case.

Interestingly, reported last week that a Manhattan judge has taken to task some well-known personal injury attorneys for what she called a "nonsensical and frivolous" bid to recoup the costs of an unsuccessful medical malpractice action. According to the story, the judge began her ruling stating that the conduct of the lawyers illustrates why members of the public hold cynical views of the legal profession. The Judge concluded that the firm's retainer agreement made recovery of the expenses contingent on the recovery on the case and since there was no recovery in the case, the claim for the expenses was frivolous. Accordingly, she issued an order to show cause why the lawyers should not be sanctioned.

Go here for the full story.

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