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Legal Ethics

After 20 Years and $20M, Was $42M More Fair for 4 Months of Legal Work?

Posted Oct 5, 2009 3:41 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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It's been more than 25 years since Alice Lawrence asked Graubard Miller to help her liquidate her deceased husband's share of a multi-million-dollar real estate empire.

By 2004, she and her children had obtained $350 million in distributions, in a 22-year legal battle with his executor that racked up $18 million in attorney fees for the law firm. Then she agreed to a 40 percent contingency fee concerning the remaining property. Unexpectedly, the matter settled only four months later, for about $105 million, recounts the New York Law Journal.

Now, well over a year after Alice Lawrence herself passed away, her estate and Graubard Miller are fighting over the $42 million fee and a trial is starting in probate court in Manhattan, the legal publication recounts.

The estate is seeking the return of both the $18 million and another $7.75 million in gifts and gift tax that Alice Lawrence allegedly paid Graubard lawyers.

On its side, Graubard is seeking--and appears likely to get--sanctions against the estate for concealing Lawrence's failing health, according to the New York Law Journal. She died before she was deposed in the $42 million fee dispute.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com (2007): "Court Doesn’t Void $42M Contingency Deal Reached Before Settlement"

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