Fees Self-Quiz

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prince Akeem of Zamunda is the son of a rich diplomat living in the U.N. Towers. He owns a jewelry distribution company that rakes in millions. Akeem approaches you, an attorney well-versed in the contracts of jewel distributors, in order to negotiate for deals with diamond extractors. In setting your fee, you account for the fact that Akeem is phenomenally rich and charge more than you should. You figure, “So what! The money, in relative terms, is like peanuts for His Highness.” Are you subject to discipline?
Choice 1 Yes, if your fee was not reasonable.
Choice 2 No, if Akeem paid without hesitation.
Choice 3 No, if every other lawyer has charged Akeem the amount you charged.
You represent a civil rights group charging that the government performed creepy medical experiments in the name of national security on people born in certain foreign countries many years ago. A federal statute provides that in the event it is proven that the government committed these acts, attorney fees may be added to a recovery by plaintiffs in a suit against the government. Your clients prevail in court after a lengthy battle. They are awarded a mere $15.00 each—in the aggregate it amounted to about $1500. They are especially peeved when they find out that you submitted a bill to the court, charging $400,000 in attorney fees for logging 3,000 hours of work on the case. The clients are shocked that you stand to make so much money off of their misfortune. They report you to the local ethics board. Are you subject to discipline?
Choice 1 Yes, because your fees are way out of proportion to your clients’ damage awards.
Choice 2 Yes, because judging by the damage awards, you were not successful in your result.
Choice 3 No, if the fees are reasonable.
You represent Desiree Sapphire in her divorce from Telemachus Hirschorn. Desiree chooses you because you’re smart, witty, attractive, and you have a phenomenal sense of humor. You want to do your best for her, especially because she’s phenomenally wealthy and might get you some exclusive backstage passes at Carnegie Hall, of which she’s a major benefactor. Her divorce from Telemachus is something like a corporate divestiture – both had billions before they married; she from her family’s business in gems, and he from his family’s shipping business. You make a deal with Desiree that you’ll work on a contingent fee – once a satisfactory settlement with Telemachus is reached, you will collect around 2% of her award. You’re happy because 2% could mean a lot of money for you in the end. But is there an ethical issue to contend with?
Choice 1 Yes, because you cannot ask for 2%, since your take could be in the millions.
Choice 2 No, because 2% could be a reasonable fee.
Choice 3 Yes, because you can’t take this case on a contingent fee.
Jerghin Phurl contacts you about representing her in a wrongful death suit against a company whose crazy employee shot and killed her husband. Every lawyer she has spoken with quoted her a 30% contingent fee, and she’s looking to do better. She wants every penny to go to her kids’ college education, and not to her lawyer. You offer her a 15% fee, and she agrees on the spot. You shake hands. The next hour you file a complaint, happy as a clam that you will be able to pay back your own law school loans when the case finally settles. Are there any ethical problem here?
Choice 1 No, because you are entitled to represent a client in a personal injury or wrongful death case on a contingent fee.
Choice 2 Yes, if you did not put the contingent fee arrangement in writing prior to commencing representation.
Choice 3 No, because you shook hands, which constitutes a valid oral contract for the sale of legal services.
You are the head of your county bar association. You and your associates perceive a general dissatisfaction in the community with the way lawyers in the community set fees. People are up in arms about high legal bills, and you and the other lawyers’ reputations have subsequently suffered. You are a good person, and came into the practice of law with the hope of making a positive contribution to society. You’ve maintained high ethical standards, and you try to give your all for your clients. As an active philanthropist you’ve also given a whole lot of charity – especially the American Cancer Society, of which you are on the board of directors. To make amends and account for dissatisfaction in the community, you and your associates make an agreement limiting the amount of money you can charge on personal injury cases. Are there any problems with this?
Choice 1 Your agreements will probably leave you exposed to litigation for antitrust violations.
Choice 2 Not if the agreements to limit maximum fees put a reasonable fee ceiling into place.
Choice 3 No, because your intentions are honorable.
You are a personal injury attorney who finds a goldmine of a plaintiff. A poor man suffered a brain injury as a result of eating a tainted hamburger at a greasy fast food restaurant. Unfortunately, you feel your experience does not allow you to take on the case by yourself. Therefore, you solicit the help of a friend, who is an expert personal injury attorney with years of experience in tort law. You make an agreement to split a reasonable contingent fee 50-50. The client consents in writing to have two lawyers – you will perform research and gather evidence, and your friend will make court appearances on behalf of the client. For the most part, the work you will both be doing will be about equal. What’s wrong, from an ethical point of view?

Choice 1 Your lack of experience disqualifies you from participation.
Choice 2 Nothing, the fee split is perfectly ethical in light of the facts.
Choice 3 The client’s consent was obtained under duress.

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