June 9, 2010
The Vermont Professional Conduct Board imposed a reprimand and probation of an attorney who charged an excessive fee and failed to reduce a contingent fee to writing. The attorney was a "seasoned practitioner" with over 36 years at the Vermont Bar.
The client had been seriously injured in a trampoline accident. He was represented by two lawyers for a 1/3 contingent fee. The sanctioned attorney represented the client in divorce and related proceedings and never entered an appearance in the accident litigation. He did give the client some free advice and facilitated communication with the attorney handling the matter. The attorney agreed to continue in this role for a 12% share of any gross recovery, which was found to be excessive. The Board majority found that the attorney's limited role in the accident litigation made the fee (which was not paid after there was a substantial recovery) excessive.
A dissent would find no violation. (Mike Frisch)
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