Legal Question in Civil Litigation in Missouri

contingient fee contract

what is a standard % for a contingient fee contract?

Is there any way I can get out of this contract?

Can I fire my lawyer evern though we have a contract?

This suit has been going on for 7 years and I feel my lawyer has lost interest and is no longer working this case.

I am sueing a major real estate company for giving me fraudulent forms at closeing and not disclosing extensive damage to propert

Asked on 6/11/03, 9:14 am

2 Answers from Attorneys

Anthony DeWitt Bartimus, Frickleton Robertson & Gorny, PC

Re: contingient fee contract

A contingent fee percentage varies widely and there are numerous forms. Our firm uses a standard 40% on all types of cases, but we have seen fees as high as 50% in very complex cases, and as low as 25% in some simple cases.

It is not completely unusual for a case to go for seven years if there are multiple appeals and if there are writs taken. However, if there has not been a trial in seven years, this is probably an area of some concern. If you have not seen a case file from your lawyer, and have not verified in person at the county courthouse that your case remains on file, you should probably do that.

You can fire a lawyer at any time for any reason. The lawyer has whatever rights he has given himself in his contract, or he has a right to "quantum meruit" which means he can recover the value of his services should there be a recovery down the road. Usually the lawyer that takes over the case will agree to share the fee with the prior lawyer on an equitable basis.

If you find out that your case is not on file, or that your attorney has in some way failed to keep you informed about the status of the case, you may wish to contact the Chief Disciplinary Counsel's office in Jefferson City.

Good Luck

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Answered on 6/11/03, 10:24 am

Michael R. Nack Michael R. Nack, Attorney at Law

Re: contingient fee contract

Most contingency fee contracts provide for a 33 1/3% attorney's fee, although many contracts provide for a sliding scale. So, an attorney would make 33 1/3% if the case settles prior to filing suit, 40% once suit has been filed and 50% if the case goes to trial. At each stage of the proceedings, the attorney must expend more time and effort, and in theory the potential value of the case goes up. Yes, a client may discharge an attorney at any stage of the proceedings, but if suit has already been filed then the attorney must obtain the permission of the Judge before withdrawing. Many Judges will insist upon subsequent cousel entering their appearance in the case before allowing the first lawyer to withdraw. If you fire your attorney, you may not have to pay that attorney the percentage fee stated in the contract since no actual recovery has been made to deduct the attorney's fees from. But, in Missouri, the law is clear that the fired attorney is entitled to be paid a reasonable amount for the services rendered prior to being fired. These attorney's fees are often calculated on the basis of "quantam meruit', a long established legal theory which roughly translates to relate the value of the services rendered. Important factors to consider would be the amount of time spent by the attorney, the actual services performed, and how valuable those services were to you ultimately in making a recovery in the suit. I would strongly suggest that you communicate your concerns to your present attorney and allow that attorney an opportunity to rectify the situation prior to you disharging that attorney. If you do fire your attorney, your next attorney will have to pick up the ball in the middle or latter part of the game and this is often quite difficult to do successfully. Also, the new attorney will have to be paid and in all likelihood you will wind up paying more attorney's fees in the long run. Of course, if your current attorney is truely not doing the job, you may have no other reasonable alternative. I do wish you the best of luck.

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Answered on 6/11/03, 11:46 pm

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