Is my lawyer robbing me?

by B
(Platteville, CO)

Is my lawyer allowed to take 20% of my bi-weekly checks when I signed a contingency basis contract but we have not yet settled the case? He has taken over $12,000 so far, but has not done anything. I am entitled to those checks anyway. Can I file a legal malpractice suit against this attorney? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Is my lawyer robbing me?":

B (Platteville, CO):

From the facts you present, it appears your attorney is rather unorthodox in the manner in which he has been charging you for legal fees. In most cases, a personal injury attorney’s fees are first and foremost set on contingency.

A contingency fee means the attorney's payment is "contingent" upon the attorney either settling your injury claim, or winning it at trial. Presuming the attorney successfully completes one of these tasks, then he would normally be entitled to anywhere from 30% to 40% off the settlement amount, depending on the written fee agreement.

Before going any further, take a look at the contract you signed with the attorney when he accepted your case. If you agreed to let the attorney take 20% of your bi-weekly checks, then that agreement will control the fee schedule and be in force.

If the contingency fee contract does not permit such deductions, then look at what type of legal fees you agreed to pay.

Presuming you agreed in writing to permit the attorney to take 20% of your bi-weekly checks, if the amount the attorney ultimately takes from you exceeds 20% to 40% of the final settlement amount, then the attorney likely acted improperly.

If this is the case, your recourse would be to file a grievance against the attorney with the Colorado Bar Association. A grievance is different than a malpractice claim. Malpractice would occur if the attorney's actions or omissions fall beneath the standard of other attorneys in the area in which your attorney practices law.

From the facts you present, so far there does not seem to be evidence off malpractice. To file a grievanve against the attorney go to the Colorado Bar Association's website.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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