Thursday, October 11, 2007

"Non-refundable" Retainer Must Be Earned

An attorney admitted to practice in 2004 charged a "non-refundable" fee of $5,000 to handle litigation arising out of a partnership dispute. The matter had been referred by a more senior lawyer who appears to have meddled rather than mentored the neophyte attorney. The accused lawyer attempted to "renegotiate the fee under threat of withdrawal and misrepresented his motives" for doing so. He withdrew prior to the trial. In reviewing findings of misconduct based on charges filed by Maryland Bar Counsel, the Maryland Court of Appeals held that "an initially reasonable fee, even a flat fee, may become excessive in cases where the attorney does little or no work." The retainer also must be held in escrow until earned. The court found a number of violations including dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice. The court also was concerned about the attorney's lack of candor and contrition. Indefinite suspension with the right to reapply after a year. (Mike Frisch)

Bar Discipline & Process | Permalink

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