Your situation will be almost entirely governed by the provisions of the retainer agreement that you signed, so it is difficult for me to give you too much advice. That said, there is a statute of limitations in Maryland for filing suit, and for a contract case (which is what this should be) the case must be filed within three years. So, my first question to you is how long ago were you represented? Also, is it possible that you moved and the prior firm was sending bills to an incorrect address? Another threshold question is whether you were properly served with the lawsuit paperwork. If you were not properly served, you need to proceed carefully, as filing an answer to the lawsuit will waive the improper service issue.
Generally speaking, the fact that you did not receive regular statements from the lawyer probably does not eliminate your obligation to pay the bill (although it may be grounds for filing a grievance, it probably won't extinguish your liability for the work that was performed). If the retainer agreement you signed is silent as to the frequency at which you will receive statements, then the court may not even allow you to raise it as a defense or even testify about it. Essentially, the question will boil down to whether you agreed to the contractual provisions (and you were not under duress, the contract was not unconscionable or contrary to public policy, the provisions of the contract are clear and unambiguous, etc.), whether the lawyer fulfilled his/her end of the bargain by performing the agreed upon work, and whether you have failed to perform as agreed. That said, it is entirely reasonable and possible that you can resolve this issue directly with the law firm via settlement negotiations. I strongly encourage you to contact an attorney to have him/her review the retainer to apprise you of the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and see if it is in your best interests to try to settle the matter.
By the way, if you go to court and lose the case, you can be relieved of any obligation on any judgment entered against you by declaring bankruptcy, provided the lawyer was not appointed by the court to serve as a best interests attorney for one or more minor children. Again, a reasonably well-informed lawyer should be able to discuss the pros and cons of this with you.
There is a free clinic every Wednesday afternoon at the Circuit Court courthouse in Prince Frederick, for family law matters, where you can meet with a family law attorney for free and receive advice. Although your case probably doesn't meet the criteria since it is really a contract case, you might want to keep this clinic in mind. If my response created more questions than it answered, feel free to email me directly. Good luck.
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Contact your local bar association. You appear to have a fee dispute, and some possible aspect of a communication issue with your attorney (former attorney). They most likely have a fee arbitration committee.
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