Monday, April 13, 2009
A decision from the New York Appellate Division for the First Judicial Department in a fight over legal fees between two law firms:
Order...in a dispute between plaintiff's outgoing and incoming counsel as to the division of a $1,000,000 contingency fee earned in a personal injury action, apportioned 70% of the contingency fee to plaintiff's incoming attorneys Finkelstein & Partners, L.L.P. (Finkelstein) and 30% to the outgoing attorneys Trief & Olk (T & O), unanimously affirmed, without costs.
The motion court's apportionment of the contingency fee was a provident exercise of discretion. The court analyzed the relevant factors including the amount of time spent by the attorneys on the case, the nature and quality of the work performed and the relative contributions of counsel toward achieving the outcome. The record shows that T & O laid the foundation for the case in the eight months that they represented plaintiff, and obtained a $900,000 settlement offer, which plaintiff rejected. Finkelstein then handled the case for three more years, adding additional defendants, and obtained a settlement of $3,000,000 prior to the jury publishing its verdict following a 10-day trial. The motion court appropriately recognized the relative contributions of the attorneys in awarding 30% of the contingency fee to T & O. (citations omitted)