What fee arrangement did you make with this attorney when you hired him? That is the first place to go to identify your obligation.
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As I understand the question the answer is "no" there is no federal law which requires the attorney to get paid the fee that was agreed to. It is a matter of contract. I sounds like there may be an error of communication but that's very difficult to tell via Avvo messages.
Ben Glass is licensed in Virginia. He offers a number of free consumer book downloads at his site for information purposes only. You should consult an experienced, board certified attorney in your area. Obviously, no attorney client relationship is formed by participating in Avvo.
So sorry for your loss of a family member.
Unless it involves a minor client or the amount of the contingency fee is excessive, the fee is a matter of contract and is negotiable between the lawyer and client(s), the court does not set the fee. If you got nothing in the recovery and your lawyers got a full fee and did not do a very good job, you might ask them to reduce their fee and give you something? If the expert was very poor and did not do their job ( not the same as testifing a certain way in exchange for a fee, which is improper), then perhaps the expert should have been paid less or should refund part of their fee? Otherwise, it is a painful lesson that lawsuits don't always turn out the way they should or the way we expect? You might want to have a legal malpractice attorney look at the case to see if you have a claim against your lawyers?
Legal disclaimer:This message does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any statements are made for general informational purposes and do not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client privilege is created by this communication. Attorney is licensed in California only.