i received a settlement check and closing letter from my lawyer but now my lawyer said he forgot a bill and needs me to send the check back and has a hold on it? what are my rights i settled for disclosed amount on the check nothing less?
State/Country relating to Question: Tennessee
Hello, and thank you for contacting Just Answer.
Just to clarify, you were involved in a legal action of some kind, it settled, and your attorney sent you a check that was settlement money, but now is saying that the check was for too much?
the amount we agreed upon but now hes saying he still has a bill that he did not factor in?
The amount who agreed upon? Was it the amount that you and the other party agreed upon or you and your lawyer? Who did you settle with?
me and the lawyer.
Ok, that sounds like a unique situation. Ultimately, an attorney does have the right to receive compensation for their work, and are generally not breaking ethical rules by billing you for time so long as the bill is legitimate and falls within whatever the client's fee agreement with an attorney is.
Now, having said that, if the check sent to you was payment on a settlement, it gets closer to the line of inappropriate conduct.
I look at it as a costly hit on my settlement and i wouldnt have settle if i knew i was getting less.
Ultimately, all legal fees should have been agreed to up front under the Tennessee ethics rules (Which I will give you a link to in a moment).
thats were my problem begin.
So, the attorney cannot arbitrarily bill you for something if you were not aware of the fees up front. Further, if the money we are talking about was received as settlement from a suit, the funds are arguably your property, and an attorney has an obligation to keep those funds separate from other funds, and to not unduly burden those funds.
The relevant ethics rules here are 1.16, which reads:
(a) A lawyer shall hold property and funds of clients or third persons that are in a lawyer’s possession in connection with a representation separate from the lawyer’s own property and funds. A lawyer in possession of clients’ or third persons’ property and funds incidental to representation shall hold said property and funds separate from the lawyer’s own property and funds.
(1) Funds belonging to clients or third persons shall be kept in a separate account maintained in an insured depository institution located in the state where the lawyer’s office is situated (or elsewhere with the consent of the client or third person) and which participates in the overdraft notification program as required by Supreme Court Rule 9. A lawyer may deposit the lawyer’s own funds in such an account for the sole purpose of paying bank service charges on that account, but only in an amount reasonably necessary for that purpose.
(i) Except as provided by subparagraph (a)(1)(ii), interest earned on accounts in which the funds of clients are deposited, less any deduction for service charges (other than overdraft charges), fees of the depository institution, and intangible taxes collected with respect to the deposited funds, shall belong to the clients whose funds are deposited, and the lawyer shall have no right or claim to such interest. Overdraft charges shall not be deducted from accrued interest and shall be the responsibility of the lawyer.
(ii) A lawyer shall deposit funds of clients and third persons that are nominal in amount or expected to be held for a short period of time in a pooled account that participates in the Interest On Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (“IOLTA”) program, which provides that all interest earned be paid to the Tennessee Bar Foundation in accordance with the requirements of Supreme Court Rule 43. The determination of whether funds are nominal in amount or are to be held for a short period of time rests in the sound discretion of the lawyer, and no charge of ethical impropriety or other breach of professional conduct shall attend a lawyer’s exercise of good faith judgment in that regard.
(iii) A lawyer may decline to participate in the IOLTA program by submitting a notice of such declination in writing, no less frequently than annually, to the Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. In accordance with the provisions of Supreme Court Rule 43, such notice may be filed at the time the lawyer files the registration statement with the Board of Professional Responsibility.
(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 funds or other property. If a dispute arises between the client and a third person with respect to their respective interests in the funds or property held by the lawyer, the portion in dispute shall be kept separate and safeguarded by the lawyer until the dispute is resolved.
(c) When in the course of representation a lawyer is in possession of property in which both the lawyer and another person claim interests, the property shall be kept separate by the lawyer until there is an accounting and severance of their interests.
and Rule 1.5, which reads:
(a) A lawyer’s fee and charges for expenses shall be reasonable. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:
(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;
(2) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;
(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;
(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;
(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;
(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services;
(8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent;
(9) prior advertisements or statements by the lawyer with respect to the fees the lawyer charges; and
(10) whether the fee agreement is in writing.
(b) When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, the basis or rate of the fee shall be communicated to the client, preferably in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation
I know that is a lot of information. Basically they say that attorneys fees should be set at the beginning of the representation or soon thereafter, and that any property of the clients (which would arguably include settlement funds) must be given to the client after a request to do so has been made.
If, after attempting to resolve this issue with the attorney, you believe that one of these rules has been broken, it is within your rights to consider filing an ethics charge with the Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court, who can be contacted at:
ok read everything and it seems if he wasnt upfront with the bill giving me a number thats wasnt correct to get me to settle than going back on the sign settlement it falls under bad practice?
That is certainly an argument you can make, yes. Generally, attorneys must be up front with their fee structure and how they are going to charge for legal representation, under the rules of ethics.
I hope this has been helpful, and let me know if you have any further questions. Otherwise, please remember to click the ACCEPT button so that I can receive credit for my work.
thanks making money good rate for the minutes lol
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