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Action on behalf of an attorney seeking to recover attorneys fees. 

Action on behalf of an attorney seeking to recover attorneys fees. (Click here for more case details)

In a rare departure from our usual work for clients against attorneys, we were sympathetic to and eventually represented an attorney trying to recover reasonable attorneys fees from her former client. What started out as a case that we thought would be resolved simply, ended up in a six week jury trial at the end of 2005.

In this case, our client S, the attorney, had worked for her client W, (off and on) over a 12 year period on W’s unbelievably bitter and lengthy battle against the Church of Scientology (he had been a former member and was the first to do battle with Scientology, and a battle it was). S was not one of the many attorneys who had actually and formally represented W in the myriad of cases that were spawned, but had primarily worked with some of the firms and lawyers who had done work on the case. She had no legal agreement (at least not one that passed muster) and so she sued for the reasonable value of her services.

The battle lines in the case were principally drawn over the time records that S had maintained, what kind of services she performed (W and many of his lawyers claimed S had been nothing but a glorified clerk), and some ethical violations alleged by W to have been committed by S along the way.

The trial lumbered along in protracted fashion. It took nearly two weeks to pick the jury as there were allegations that Scientology was trying to taint or tamper with the jury. The defense was formidable and attacked every piece of work S had done to show that it was not “lawyer” work. They attacked S’s ethical conduct in a number of ways, and also claimed that S had actually been paid the full value of services over the years.

W’s expert claimed that the value of S’s work was, at most, only about $100,000, but should be reduced to zero because of S’s wrongdoing. We asked the jury to award S $550,000 and to not reduce the award as the alleged ethical violations were non-existent or caused no damage at all.

Eventually, the jury found that the value of S’s services was $530,000 but reduced the award by about $180,000, later determined to likely be for a combination of what the jury thought S had been paid (which had been in dispute) and for what her own wrongdoing had caused.