December 7, 2012
Charging Legal Fees For Non-Legal Services
The Louisiana Supreme Court has imposed a two-year suspension with restitution of an attorney who charged and failed to refund excessive fees.
One client suffered from Huntingtion's disease. The attorney charged him hourly legal fees for both legal and non-legal services, such as driving him around and assisting in moving household belongings.
The court found the fees excessive, noting that the issue of charging fees at legal rates for non-attorney services had not been previously addressed.
The court quoted a case from Ohio that in turn quoted a Tennessee case:
...an attorney may not serve in a self-appointed role as a paraclete, comforter, helper, or hand holder, under the guise of legal services and at a lawyer's compensation rate.
The court held that the evidence failed to establish that the client had diminished legal capacity as a result of his condition.
A dissent would find the sanction, as well as the fees, excessive. (Mike Frisch)
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