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If my attorney put a lein on my divorce award prior to the case even being over, as to "assure" she gets paid is it ethical?

Roseburg, OR |

divorce attorney, who had already been paid $9,500 in the divorce after taking the case over from one who withdrew, recieved it in 1 /12 months. without getting final bill, she put a lein on the divorce award of marital assets as she stated to assure she'd get paid, without giving chance for payments or for the ex to actually even give the share of marital assets. not taking in consideration what'd it do to my credit or actually giving chance to make payments, said didnt have to. there was no reason to behave like that since she did already receive $9,500. later after the lein filed, I found she over billed me for meetings didnt occur & other similair stuff, billing me thousands more than the retainer. is this common behavior? I hadnt seen my bill till after the lein filed.

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Attorney answers 2


While I cannot speak about the amount or the agreement you have with your attorney, you may want to first look at the financial arrangement you have. In my practice, I lay out the cost to the client, including the retainer balance and what the rights are in terms of knowing how the money is spent, billing practices, and how often I send the client a statement. Some offices do it on a monthly basis, others do it every two weeks. This way, you can keep track of how much time is spent on your case and whether there are questionable entries into your account.

It is a potential ethical violation if a lawyer does not keep her client informed about the costs of services rendered in some shape or form, which includes a statement. That being said, though, you want to be sure about your standing before you file a complaint. Look at your contract with this attorney and make sure you know what you signed up for. Sometimes, clients are not sure what exactly representation is and how it will cost them financially. It is the duty of the attorney to explain to them how they will be charging the client but the client's ultimately responsible to ensure that they ask about things they are confused on.

Go through whatever bills you may have. You said that she may have overbilled you for things that happened, including meetings you never had. Review those bills carefully and make sure everything on your end lines up on your position that she had indeed charged you too much. Filing an ethical complaint is a right that clients have against lawyers they feel did not act in a professional manner but it is also a very heavy responsibility to undertake once you do it. Once you feel sure and that your claims can be supported by facts, you can contact the bar and file a complaint against her for unethical activities. You may also want to see about legal help in pursuing your claims if you believe her actions impacted your case and your credit score/history.

This answer is provided as a general opinion to a question posted on an internet forum. This does not create in either party the expectation that an attorney-client relationship has been entered into between the original poster and the Law Office of Reid Seino, LLC. Any information provided should not be solely taken as legal advice but in the context of general information. Please seek legal representation for any specific legal questions.


Putting aside for the moment the questions of the validity of certain charges and the amounts, in and of itself, it is not unethical to lien assets to secure payment.

This answer is for general purposes only and does not create an attorney/client or confidential relationship which can only be created by a written and signed retainer agreement.

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