June 26, 2007
If I Were A Carpenter...
...and you were a lawyer, what issues might arise?
A law firm hired carpenters to build a second-story apartment for a lawyer above his firm's law offices. Cost: $39, 000. A lawyer in the firm (the father of the attorney for whom the apartment had been built) represented the carpenters in an unrelated legal matter. The firm billed over $12,000 for legal services and offered to waive the fees in exchange for a waiver of the $39, 000 invoice. Trouble was that the fee invoice "had charged...for over twenty hours that were not itemized or otherwise accounted for." The carpenters filed a complaint with the attorney dispute resolution committee and obtained a mechanic's lien to attach real estate and fixtures at the firm. On appeal of a directed verdict for the law firm, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed and remanded :"a rational juror could find that the [defendant law firm] attempted to deceive the plaintiffs by inflating the legal bill...and using the inflated amount to bargain with the plaintiffs." (Mike Frisch)
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I could be mistaken, but I don't think the final invoice was equivalent to the total cost, as the firm was periodically billed during the course of the project (every 2-4 weeks) and thus the cost of the apartment above the law firm office was $39,000 (the final invoice) plus whatever the cost of the prior invoices amounted to.
Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | Jun 26, 2007 12:17:40 PM