Legal Question in Legal Ethics in California

I paid my attorney $1750 to represent me, but 3 weeks later, i terminated our agreement. At the time i terminated our agreement, i told him to send me a bill for the services, and the cost of those services, he provided. I have made several requests, via phone calls to his office & correspondence to his email for the past 4 months, and have yet to receive such statement or bill from him.

How do i go about getting my money back?

Asked on 11/05/11, 6:59 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Christian Montgomery Montgomery & Wetenkamp, Attorneys At Law

You are also entitled to a refund of any money that has not been earned and is not disputed. Any disputed amount should be placed into the attorney's trust account until the dispute is resolved. Your former attorney has an ethical duty to provide you the information you requested within a reasonable amount of time.

County bar associations offer fee dispute services for attorney-client fee disputes. If you believe your former attorney has not been ethical, you may consider filing a complaint with the California State Bar. However, fee disputes are resolved by county bar associations and not the State Bar. Additionally, a demand letter from an attorney may also provide you with more immediate results. Lastly, given the amount in dispute, you may also consider filing a claim in the appropriate small claims court. I have fee dispute experience and can provide a consultation to you if you feel it would be worth your while.

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Answered on 11/05/11, 10:43 am
Anthony Roach Law Office of Anthony A. Roach

I think Mr. Montgomery misses the point. You don't know if you have a fee dispute when the attorney doesn't even respond. In other words, how in the world do you know whether his charges are reasonable? Mr. Montgomery's recommendation of engaging in fee dispute arbitration only makes sense if you have an actual dispute over fees that were charged.

I suggest sending a written request, pointing out that you are entitled to a full accounting of the money you paid. California Rules of Professional Conduct, rule 4-100 provides for your situation:

Additionally, Rule 3-100(D) provides that a "member whose employment has terminated shall: Promptly refund any part of a fee paid in advance that has not been earned. This provision is not applicable to a true retainer fee which is paid solely for the purpose of ensuring the availability of the member for the matter."

If he or she still does not respond, contact the California State Bar and file a complaint. You can get a complaint form on their website.

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Answered on 11/06/11, 4:42 pm

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