Did my Attorney breach his fiduciary duty to state his fees or have a contract ? Did He look out for his best interest or mine?

Asked about 1 year ago - Miami, FL

This was debt collection case. Most of our correspondence was thru email. The initial email sent asked about the collection process and fees. His response was tell him about the debtor and send a copy of the final judgment. The accounts of the debtor were searched 3 out of the next 5 months. I was paying the charges up front. Finally after the 5th mth we served Writ of Garnishment. We found that more than enough of the money was in joint accounts. Hes not married.The Lawyer advised my that the bank was going to release the joint accounts that were held as to not be responsible for freezing the joint accts of the other holder and to settle for less money. I did & when the $ was received he wanted 40% and no less.

Additional information

He says that he told me but forgot to have me sign a contract. The case that was won by me allowed for the prevailing party to recoup fees, although I had no idea about post judgment fees.Once I found out that contingency contracts SHALL be in writing and forwarded him a copy. I informed him that I thought that I was paying fees as they were being acquired because i was paying for the bank search's and that his fees would be added to and taken from the garnishments. Before he new that I found out about the contingency rule he said he worked in excess of 6 hrs on the case and charge $375/hr. I ask for accounting of billable hrs and work performed on the case and he sends me over 20hrs ( from initial consultation to responding to my disputing his fees). On his website it states initial consultation free of charge. Because he been so disingenuous I cant trust him to be honest. I have offered 25% of the collection minus the fees I paid upfront. He say no.

Attorney answers (2)

  1. Clifford Chad Henson

    Contributor Level 5
    Best Answer
    chosen by asker

    Answered . First, as a technical matter, no. The duty to state fees or provide a contract is not a fiduciary duty. He's still bound to comply with the relevant ethical duties, which can be found here: http://www.floridabar.org/divexe/rrtfb.nsf/FV/A.... A quick and dirty reading of them indicates that charging a 40% contingent fee without a contract or abrogating a specific advertised arrangement (e..g, "free initial consultation") could violate that ethical duty.

    Second, as a strategic matter, it may be a good idea to advise your attorney that you are considering filing an ethics complaint (and leaving negative reviews on any reviewing website). If your attorney is clearly in the wrong, he may be incentivized to do the right thing when confronted with the threat of a damaging complaint.

    Third, keep in mind that actually suing your lawyer has consequences for the attorney-client relationship generally, and attorney-client privilege and the duty of confidentiality in particular. For the precise consequences regarding those, if #2 above doesn't work, contact an attorney... and get the fee agreement in writing.

    Good luck!

    I am not your attorney. This is not legal advice. Do not rely on my statements for any purpose whatsoever. I may... more
  2. Benjamin C. Varadi

    Contributor Level 7

    Answered . As a general response, most Bar Associations (including Florida) offer a free Legal Fee Arbitration Program. I believe both parties have to agree to participate, but this may be a cheaper and faster alternative to litigating, and many attorneys prefer to participate as public lawsuits over fees can be bad for business. I don't believe (but you should check) participating in the program would preclude filing a separate Bar ethics complaint (if warranted).

    I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer unless we sign an agreement. While my practice involves a wide array of... more

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