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Would a lawyer who is awarded attorney's fees in a lawsuit typically charge his client additional sum any ethical reason?

Houston, TX |

this practice seems to be an unethical to me. What is the real typical result in court AWARDED FEE SITUATIONS?

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Attorney answers 3


Taking a fee over and above a court award is not unethical on its face. Whether the lawyer is entitled to any fee over and above what is awarded by the court generally depends on the terms of the retainer agreement. There is no "typical result" because awards of attorneys fees are not very common. Attorneys fees are genrally awarded in cases based upon certain state of Federal statutes. The wording of the statute may also affect the attorney's right to a fee in excess of what the court has awarded. Lastly, ethics codes limit attorneys' fees to what is "reasonable" but give little guidance as to what that means. What is reasonable is a case by case determination.

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I agree completely with the previous answer and would add the following. If this case was in state court, then the right to recover attorneys fees from the defendant belongs to the client not the attorney. That right is independent of the attorney fee agreement. Therefore it is not necessarily unethical for an attorney to charge a client more than what the court awarded. The most important considerations are the provisions of the contract between the attorney and the client.

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As Joseph indicated, what is 'reasonable' is a case by case determination. As long as you're not suggesting that the attorney walked into your house and took money from a shoebox in your closet, there is nothing inherently unethical about the situation. Though the specific facts (which to be fair, we don't even know what type of suit this was - DTPA/personal injury etc.) and the fee agreement might illuminate something clearly unethical that we wouldn't be in a position to know about based on the general information provided above.

If you feel like the facts indicate something clearly was unethical then you should likely politely discuss the matter with the attorney just to see what he has to say on the matter. And if you don't like the answer then most malpractice lawyers (that sue other lawyers) will offer a free initial consultation - Houston has no shortage of those kinds of attorneys.

Best of luck

There is NO attorney-client privilege based on this interaction. I am NOT your attorney. We have no signed engagement letter with a clear understanding regarding fees. Further, everything we both just wrote is publicly available on the internet and would be the same as if we were talking in a crowded restaurant, there are many witnesses looking over your shoulder and can repeat anything you write here. If you need legal assistance use Avvo to find a local attorney in your jurisdiction that you feel can best represent your interests as a zealous advocate. My experience is in corporate tax, white collar criminal defense, partnership tax, and tax controversy/litigation. If you're being audited by the IRS or state taxing authority, or you are taking an unusually risky tax position on a return, that is the kind of thing you should have experienced counsel on your side and we can set up an initial consultation. If you have a family law, debt collection, violent crime sort of issue then I do not handle that. Do not contact me for an initial consultation on non-tax matters.