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A client retained a personal injury attorney on contingency basis. The attorney never signed a written contingency agreement

San Ramon, CA |

with the client. For 2 years, the attorney mishandled the case then decided to leave the case. The client hired a new skilled contingent-based fee attorney. The new attorney signed a properly written contingency agreement.

The new attorney saved the case and won his client a verdict of $100,000. Based on the written contingency agreement, the new attorney took $33,330 (33.33% * $100,000) and the client took $66,670 ($100,000- $33,330).

The first attorney asks for his fees. California Business and Professions Code 6147 states that such contingency agreement between the first attorney and the client is voidable at the option of the client. The court determines a reasonable fee for the first attorney on hourly basis for the 2 years is $75,000.

Does the client end in the red with $8,330??!

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Attorney answers 4


This sounds like an implausible hypothetical; the statute say that if an agreement is voided, the first attorney is entitled to a reasonable fee, and I don't believe a single judge would find it reasonable for an attorney to earn a $75,000 fee for bad work on a case that grossed $100,00 for the client. Are you asking about reality, or is this is law school question?


I agree, this sounds incredibly unlikely. I would seek appellate counsel.


Fee arbitration.


Did you get a notice of right to arbitrate the fee dispute with the bar assn from the 1st lawyer/ He must provide that before he can sue. the fee arb isnt binding unless the parties agree to make it so. Have you been sued in court by the 1st atty? Has that case concluded with a judgment as you described? In Ca, the 2 attys must share the fee, and normally do so based upon many factors, such as the time spent, the nature of the actual services provided, the quality of work, etc. Atty 2 should be assisting you on this. Did atty 2 actually try the case to verdict, or did you get a settlement in the case? Contact the Bar if you have further questions, assuming the 2d atty isnt helping.

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