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Jim Reilly
Jim Reilly, Attorney
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Experience:  California lawyer since 1976.
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In Texas, may attorney utilize his assistant to recover fees

Customer Question

In Texas, may an attorney utilize his assistant to recover fees owed for services rendered?

During my research, I came across something that said that attorneys could only do so much to recover legal fees owed to them for services rendered (ethically). I work for a good man, with a big heart, and he is owed close to 30,000 dollars in unpaid fees. I would like to help him recover these fees...by being given the authority to make payment arrangements with clients. I am unsure if a firm is allowed to call a client weekly to work something out. Sometimes people feel ashamed to face the person they owe money too and that is where I would come in. Is this ethical?

Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 5 years ago.
Working at the direction of your employer, you can assist him in collecting past due legal fees by any otherwise lawful means. You cannot, of course, represent yourself as a lawyer, but you can advice clients who have not paid that you are his legal assistant and attempting to collect on his behalf.

You can make phone calls, write letters, employ a collection agency and/or file lawsuits to recover the unpaid fees. All of this would have to be done in your employer's name, of course, but you can do a lot of it on his behalf. He would have to be the named plaintiff in any lawsuit and would have to sign the complaint, but you could prepare the paperwork and do the legwork to get it filed.

You should be aware of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, with which you would also have to comply. For the Fair Trade Commission's brochure on the act, see:

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre27.pdf

Your boss can give you authority to work out payment arrangements on his behalf, though any written agreement regarding payment of fees should be signed by him.

You cannot engage in any conduct which would be prohibited for him to do himself. You should be familiar with the Texas State Bar rules regarding attorney-client relationships, in particular Rule 1.04 regarding fees. You can see the rules at:

http://www.txethics.org/reference_rules.asp?view=conduct


Good luck with this effort.
Jim Reilly, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 1801
Experience: California lawyer since 1976.
Jim Reilly and 3 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Okay, I apologize, big piece of my question left out. My boss handles bankruptcy/tax issues. Does the information apply even if the client has filed for bankruptcy?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Your answer was great. I will accept. I really appreciate your help. I apologize for not being thorough with my question. My loss...Happy New Year! 2009 here we come ; )

Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 5 years ago.
That's okay ... no need to apologize.

The fact that a particular client may have filed for bankruptcy makes no difference in what procedures or practices you can or cannot follow in attempting to collect fees.

The actual fees to be paid by bankruptcy clients must, of course, be approved by the court, so there should be no issue as to what the correct fee is (though the attorney can agree to take a lesser fee as part of a negotiation for payment of the fee).

Thanks for the accept and Happy New Year to you as well.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you very much, this has been a really good experience. I am very satisfied with your answers. Best wishes to you in 2009!
Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 5 years ago.
You're welcome and thank you as well. Good luck helping your attorney -- more of us could use assistants with your attitude, desire and initiative!

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Jim Reilly
Jim Reilly
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California lawyer since 1976.