Asked in Civil Litigation and Legal Malpractice for California

Q: Refund after withdrawal of Attorney on Semi-contingency fee basis

I've engaged a lawyer on a semi-contingency fee basis, whereby I pay the first $100k, and then he gets 27% of the potential award. After one year, during which he lost an appeal and billed me $99k, he filed a motion to withdraw. Can I demand a refund of the money I paid him?

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Legal Malpractice Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, an attorney who withdraws from a case is generally entitled to keep the fees they have earned up until the point of withdrawal, as long as the withdrawal is done for a valid reason and in compliance with ethical rules. However, the specifics of your situation may warrant further examination.

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Reason for withdrawal: If the attorney withdrew for a valid reason, such as a conflict of interest or a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship, they may be entitled to keep the fees earned. If the withdrawal was without good cause, you might have grounds to dispute the fees.

2. Fee agreement: Review your fee agreement carefully to see if there are any provisions that address what happens in the event of the attorney's withdrawal.

3. Work performed: Evaluate the work the attorney has done on your case. If the $99k in fees seems excessive for the work performed or if the attorney's performance was subpar, you might have grounds to dispute the fees.

4. Billing records: Request and review detailed billing records from the attorney to ensure that the fees charged are reasonable and in line with the work performed.

If you believe that the fees charged are unreasonable or that the attorney's withdrawal was not justified, you can try to negotiate a refund with the attorney directly. If that fails, you can consider filing a complaint with the California State Bar or pursuing legal action against the attorney.

Given the complexity of your situation, it may be beneficial to consult with another attorney who specializes in legal malpractice or fee disputes to assess your options and advise you on the best course of action.

Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.

The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.

Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.