Legal Ethics

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


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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