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Can my attorney withhold settlement funds from a court case?

Foley, AL |

If I white-out or strike through the statement contained on the Distribution of Funds form about being satisfied with the handling of the case, can an attorney continue to hold the Respondent’s funds? I’M WILLING TO AGREE TO THE LEGAL FEES. (And I’m satisfied to be somewhat dissatisfied with the handling of the case.) I really don’t want to be disagreeable or have any back and forth with the attorney. I want to receive my funds and move on, but would prefer not to feel like I have to lie. It would seem disingenuous to sign the form. I don’t necessarily feel that my interest was fully protected to the best of his ability, but what’s done is done…. water under the bridge. What are some of the possible repercussions from not signing the Consent statement?

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Filed under: Professional ethics
Attorney answers 1


Not having reviewed your "Consent statement," I've got no idea what you're being asked to sign or why.

2 things you should do: Review your written fee agreement. It should spell out the procedures for what happens with the money you get from a court judgment or a settlement - see if this Consent is mentioned. Also, review your AL State Bar's website. See if there's an ethics section that address this.

I'm suspicious about any lawyer that seems to be holding settlement money hostage in exchange for what sounds like a statement agreeing not to sue them for malpractice. If you're only "somewhat dissatisfied" maybe suing isn't something you're thinking about anyway. Generally, since a lawyer can't settle a client's case without the client's approval and you agreed to this settlement, I'm assuming that you're satisfied enough not to contemplate any malpractice actions. If that's true, sign the statement and get your money.

Complaining now about the lawyer's performance is kind of silly. The times to complain were while the lawyer wasn't protecting your interest fully, and before you agreed to settle. Now it does seem petty and unreasonable to quibble about the wording of this statement.

But hey, if you want to test this, refuse to sign and see if the lawyer withholds paying you, and then threaten to go the AL State Bar. That's disagreeable, but your standing on principle seems like you don't mind being disagreeable.

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