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Ask Seattle Scott Your Own Question
Seattle Scott
Seattle Scott, Lawyer
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 961
Experience:  I have 25 years experience as a Washington State Family Law Attorney.
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I am in the process of getting a divorce I have gone through

Customer Question

Hi, I am in the process of getting a divorce I have gone through final mediation and I was awarded $20,000 from my husband as a lump sum of money. I have an outstanding balance with the firm that has been representing me. They only gave me one invoice which had an amount of $12,000 past due. When I received my cashiers check in my name for $20,000 they told me they were keeping it as payment toward what I owed. Then I realized I had never been given another invoice besides the only one that said $12,000 I beg them not to keep my $20,000 because I have been in financial ruin because of this divorce. They said they didn't care and they were keeping it. They tried to bully me into coming in signing the check over but I have had some suspicions that things have just not gone right. After I asked for another invoice which showed how much I owed which I had no idea they called me and suddenly started offering me money from my cashiers check. I found that to be suspicious. My lawyer told me on top of the money that they would give me which was $8,000 out of $20,000 that they also wanted to take my wedding ring as collateral until I pay my debt off. They said that if I went past due 45 days that they would keep my wedding ring as payment toward what I owed. I find it weird that they had no heart and then after I ask for a final invoice which they never gave me until I asked for it and they said they were keeping $20,000 before they even gave me an invoice again I find it weird that they suddenly grew a heart. Is it legal for them to keep my wedding ring or even asked for it? Is that ethical? Also if the cashiers check is in my name only are they able to keep the check as payment toward what I owe? One of the partners told me that if I didn't agree to giving them the cashiers check that he would put it back in the court system. If it is only in my name is ***** ***** able to do that? I am willing to go on a payment plan and I do want to pay back my attorney, for sure. But, he is forcing me into an amount per month that I can't promise to pay it's almost like he's setting me up for failure. Can he bully me into an amount that I know I can't pay right now?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Seattle Scott replied 1 year ago.
  • Under the TX professional conduct rules, the law firm has to give you your check upon your demand . See rule 1.14(b) below and you don't have to give up your ring as collateral. If you want to pay some of your fees form the $20,000 check, have the law firm write up an agreement saying that a certain amount of the $20,000 shall be paid to the law firm. then send the check back to your husband with a request that he issue two checks, one to you and one to the law firm for the agreed amount. Do not endorse the $20,000 check over to the law firm. If you can get an agreement with the law firm , file a complaint with the TX State Bar Discipline Office saying the law firm won't give you your money.

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  • Texas Rules
    TEXAS DISCIPLINARY RULES OF PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT
    Part I. Client-Lawyer Relationship
    As amended through June 10, 2014
    Rule 1.14. Safekeeping Property

    (a) A lawyer shall hold funds and other property belonging in whole or in part to clients or third persons that are in a lawyer's possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer's own property. Such funds shall be kept in a separate account, designated as a trust or escrow account, maintained in the state where the lawyers office is situated, or elsewhere with the consent of the client or third person. Other client property shall be identified as such and appropriately safeguarded. Complete records of such account funds and other property shall be kept by the lawyer and shall be preserved for a period of five years after termination of the representation.

    (b) Upon receiving funds or other property in which a client or third person has an interest, a lawyer shall promptly notify the client or third person. Except as stated in this Rule or otherwise permitted by law or by agreement with the client, a lawyer shall promptly deliver to the client or third person any funds or other property that the client or third person is entitled to receive and, upon request by the client or third person, shall promptly render a full accounting regarding such property.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I just spoke with him and he told me he never tried to keep my money which is a lie. He told me that if I didn't give him any money out of the only money I was awarded from my husband he would withdraw from my case and not finish my divorce decree. Is this legal? Just because I can't give him any money out of this check because I have been in financial strain because of it can he actually withdraw just because I can't give him any money out of it right now but I am completely willing to set up promissory notes about payments? Also, he is deciding the payment plan I offered $500 a month for now and would increase the amount of time goes on as I'm able to he said he will decide if he's comfortable or not with it and if he is not he will withdraw from the case. Is this legal?
Expert:  Seattle Scott replied 1 year ago.

Yes that is legal. If the fee agreement said you are to pay the fees in full each month and have not been able to do so, then the lawyer can quit as long as you are given sufficient advance notice. I assume that there is a settlement of all issues and the trial date has been stricken, it is just a matter of writing up the orders and Decree. Here is the rule on withdrawing:

  1. Rule 1.15. Declining or Terminating Representation

    (a) A lawyer shall decline to represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw, except as stated in paragraph (c), from the representation of a client, if:

    (1) the representation will result in violation of Rule 3.08, other applicable rules of professional conduct or other law;

    (2) the lawyer's physical, mental or psychological condition materially impairs the lawyers fitness to represent the client; or

    (3) the lawyer is discharged, with or without good cause.

    (b) Except as required by paragraph (a), a lawyer shall not withdraw from representing a client unless:

    (1) withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client;

    (2) the client persists in a course of action involving the lawyer's services that the lawyer reasonably believes may be criminal or fraudulent;

    (3) the client has used the lawyer's services to perpetrate a crime or fraud;

    (4) a client insists upon pursuing an objective that the lawyer considers repugnant or imprudent or with which the lawyer has fundamental disagreement;

    (5) the client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer's services, including an obligation to pay the lawyer's fee as agreed, and has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled;

    (6) the representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or

    (7) other good cause for withdrawal exists.

    (c) When ordered to do so by a tribunal, a lawyer shall continue representation notwithstanding good cause for terminating the representation.

    (d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a clients interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payments of fee that has not been earned. The lawyer may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law only if such retention will not prejudice the client in the subject matter of the representation.