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Suits to Collect Legal Fees on the Rise

April 13, 2010 | Posted in : Ethics & Professional Responsibility, Fee Dispute, Fee Dispute Litigation / ADR, Unpaid Fees

A recent NLJ article, “Law Firms Resort to Suing Their Clients to Collect Fees” reports that many law firms are reluctantly suing their former clients to collect unpaid attorney fees.  “It’s not something we do lightly,” said Julia B. Morris, managing partner of O’Connell, Flaherty & Attmore in Hartford, Connecticut.  The firm has been suing clients in court since 2008 and has 29 pending cases seeking about $523,000 in unpaid fees.  In the past two years, the firm has closed at least 11 fee dispute cases seeking about $145,000, with some claims going to trial and other settling beforehand.  Another law firm, Pullman & Comlet has six fee dispute cases seeking at least $141,000 in unpaid attorney fees.  And the Hartford office of Bingham McCutchen is seeking $764,000 in fees from a former client. 

On top of the fight over fees, there is interest that has accrued over the years that firms are trying to recover as well.  Bill Jawitz, a law firm consultant strong argues against suing former clients over fees.  “Suing clients can lead to bad publicity for the firm and often invites counter-claims from clients suing for malpractice.”  Mediation or arbitration fee dispute programs are considered the best and most cost effective way to resolve a fee dispute.