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Can my attorney sue me for unpaid fees when we had reached a settlement but I had not yet signed the promissory note?

Dallas, TX |

Can he sue me if I am still paying? How soon could this wind up in court?

The attorney fees got out of hand and the bill became something I could not keep up with. I am a schoolteacher, and I paid as much as I could monthly. The case was over on December 6th. A settlement was reached for the bill. On December 23rd a promissory note was sent for the settlement amount but the monthly payment amount was incorrect.

I sent an email noting the discrepancy and got no response. I called on January 3rd. He said he would update it and resend it. I never got it. On January 20th I got a letter that I am refusing to sign, that that offer is revoked, and that I have 10 days to pay $9k or he will hire an attorney for collection.

I sent payment for January in the interim. I have not refused anything. I figured the promissory note was coming, he claimed he resent it on January 6th. He knows I don’t have $9k.

I could see this happening if a month or two had elapsed with no word from me, or if it was more evident that maybe I was trying to skip out on the bill. But not after a phone conversation about it on January 3rd, and sending him a payment on the 18th. It seems unreasonable. I've been very proactive about getting the bill resolved. I’m disappointed.

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Attorney answers 3


A creditor can sue you regardless of whether you are paying if you do not have a settlement agreement or a payment plan that you and the creditor has signed. So, if you have not signed the settlement agreement, you cannot force the attorney to comply with an agreement that you have not signed.

Incidentally, the amount of attorney's fees should be no more than is reasonable and necessary under the circumstances. The Texas Ethics Rules contain the provisions which set out the parameters for determining the amount of reasonable and necessary fees. You can review the Ethics Rules at the following web address:

Texas Ethics Rules

The Dallas Bar Association has a fee dispute resolution process. Perhaps, you can use that procedure to resolve your dispute. You can review that process at the following web address:

Dallas Bar Association - Fee Disputes

You may be in a situation where good negotiating can save you a lot of money. One defense is the "I don't have any money" defense. If you are judgment proof, that means that a creditor, even one with a judgment, cannot seize any of your assets. You can review my legal guide on what assets you can protect from creditors at the following web address:

Incidentally, whether or not your attorney's fees are reasonable depend a lot on whether the attorney performed good quality services. If the attorney made a lot of mistakes or a single important mistake, the attorney may not have earned the fees. A lot of attorneys are reluctant to sue their clients for fees because doing so sometimes invites a counterclaim for malpractice or a grievance with the Texas State Bar. You can review the grievance procedures at the following web address:

State Bar of Texas grievance process web site:

Good luck.

Hope this helps. If you think this post was a good answer, please click the “good answer” button below and/or designate my answer as the best answer. Thanks.



Thanks for the info. The fee dispute may something good. It seems very unreasonable that after just 2 weeks of when he says he sent the email containing the prom. note that he would revoke the entire thing. More reasonable (to me anyway) would be to pick up the phone to ensure the email was received. or better yet, send the prom. note via certified mail like he did the threatening letter.


My malpractice insurance carrier advises me never to sue a client for fees, because the response is frequently a suit by the client for malpractice. It sounds like your attorney is being abusive and he probably deserves a lawsuit in return.

Was there anything about the way he handled the suit that you didn't like or felt was not proper? Did he overcharge you? If so, you should consult a lawyer who specializes in malpractice suits against other lawyers, to learn your rights. Many lawyers will give a free consultation if it may lead to a lawsuit. Then consider suing your lawyer.

DISCLAIMER—This answer is for informational purposes only under the AVVO system, its terms and conditions. It is not intended as specific legal advice regarding your question. The answer could be different if all the facts were known. This answer does not establish an attorney client relationship. I am admitted only in California. (Bryant) Keith Martin



thank you for the info. This is good to know.


I agree with the previous attorneys. They've given sound advice.

Mr. Pascale is licensed to practice law in the State of New York. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and time-lines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Pascale strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to insure proper advice is received.

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