May 18, 2011
Flat Fee Not Earned On Receipt
The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board affirmed a panel reprimand, rejecting the attorney's argument that his "flat fee" was earned on receipt notwithstanding his failure to follow through on the undertaking:
Respondent's primary argument is that "there can be no unused [or unearned] portion of a 'flat fee' " This is simply erroneous as a matter of law. It would be absurd for the law to provide, as respondent argues, that " [t]he total fee was due (earned) the moment the attorney began any work on the file." This would enable an attorney to begin an agreed upon representation, abandon it, and retain the entire fee as if the whole of the work had been completed. For obvious reasons, this has never been the law...
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