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Not Sending Clients Copy of Retainer a Costly Mistake for Law Firm

Posted Nov 30, 2009 2:54 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Delay in providing clients with a full copy of the applicable retainer agreement for their matter has cost a New Jersey law firm a six-figure sum.

Reversing an earlier award of $163,000 to Alpert Butler & Weiss for unpaid legal fees and the cost of pursuing their collection action, a state appeals court nixed the judgment against Michael and Marita Quinn. Because the West Orange firm didn't send the Quinns the master retainer agreement referenced in their retainer letter until seven months into the representation, the Appellate Division ruled, Alpert Butler isn't entitled to any fees referenced in the master retainer, reports the New Jersey Law Journal in an article reprinted in New York Lawyer (reg. req.).

Thus, although the Appellate Division upheld an Essex County Superior Court grant of summary judgment against the Quinns, it reversed an award of $97,552 to the firm for claimed legal representation costs that allegedly weren't paid by the Quinns.

Meanwhile, because the law firm represented itself pro se in the collection action, it isn't entitled either to an additional $66,192 in legal fees awarded by the trial court to sanction the Quinns for their handling of the defense of the collection action, the legal publication notes.

Before Alpert Butler withdrew from representing the couple in 2006, the firm received $183,565 in fees.

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