Confessions of a Laid-off Lawyer

Just Your Average Joe Blogging Away His Debt—In One Year or Less

Colleague Confusion

with 28 comments

Total Black: $750.64
Total Red: $229,126.19

Numerous comments over the past few months have taken me to task for daring to expect something additional from the colleague I’ve worked for since August.  Way back in Hang A Shingle.  So, I thought I’d take the time to lay out some of the back and forth between him and myself.  Might help to make for a clearer picture.  Note that I’ve changed any identifying information as to persons or corporations.

The initial “To Do” list I received on August 15, 2009 contained thirty item that he forwarded me via email.  The specific tasks he asked for my help with, and what he and I agreed upon for $1,500, included work for three different companies finalizing documents and preparing filings and responses to SEC comments, also some manual tasks like obtaining stock power certificates with medallion guarantees.  Nothing extensive. As of August 24, 2009, fifteen of the thirty items above had been completed.  As of August 31, 2009, only seven tasks remained.  September rolled around and I began my stint as a contract attorney.  My availablility became limited.  Most of the items on the above list were completed.  A few became moot.  My work for him was finished.

But then on October 27, 2009, the colleague reached back to me and sent me this email:

“[Laid-off]!
There aint much here, 3 comments to be precise, but could you prepare the letter and make the necessary changes. I would love to send him this to him tonight if possible and avoid having to speak w/ him tomorrow.
PLEASE HELP!
[Colleague]”‘

The task he asked me to help with was a set of comments received from the SEC.  See, I learned in working for him, that in getting a company registered with the SEC, and in general dealings as well, the Commission sends back comments that companies must respond to.  You submit a proposed prospectus—the document that advises potential investors about your company, it’s risks, it’s financial state, and so on—and then the SEC comes back with mandatory or “suggested” (read: mandatory) changes you must correct.  The email from October was another set of comments for one of the companies.

Once again things quieted down until November rolled around and, as noted in Moonlighting, work picked up again.  I got this email on the 15th:

“[Laid-off]

I set up a task list of sorts to help us keep track of things. I have used this in the past, and i like it because it’s just helpful to be able to check things off, as well as keep things in one place.

you can go to
http://www.toodledo.com
login: [login]
pw: [password]

i think you can also send tasks by email by putting the name of the task in the subject line and sending the email to: [colleague@emailaddress.com]  You can also set it up on your IPHONE, yes, there’s an “app” for that.

http://www.toodledo.com/info/iphone.php

I have already added a bunch of tasks, so if you call me when you’re available today or actually come over if that’s easier if you’re in the bronx later and we can discuss the tasks and also come up with a plan for the next 2 weeks or so.

Thanks again for you help dude.

[colleague]”

At this point though, I was starting to think that perhaps something was a-foot and maybe I was being taken for a ride.  So before beginning any additional work, I finally sat myself down and reconstructed my hours for him up till then, so that I’d have it off my plate and he could incorporate them into his bills to the companies.  He also wouldn’t have an excuse any longer for not paying me.  Here’s the email I sent him:

“[Colleague]:

Attached is a spreadsheet reflecting dates and time spent working on matters for [Company X], [Company Y], and [Company Z].  I also included the same information in a pdf form, if required.  Total hours that I’ve come up with break down as follows:

[Company Y]: 23.0 hours (August – November 2009)
[Company X]: 23.5 hours (August – September 2009)
[Company Z]: 7.4 hours (August – September 2009)

Total: 53.9 hours.

I also included the expenses I incurred for the FedEx mailing to [stock transfer agent] and copies of those forms.

Total = $33.84

Clearly the scope of the first projects are finished (auditor 8-Ks, stock powers, change in directors, etc.).  I suppose we need to discuss rates and such for additional work going forward.  Even if you cut my time in half to roughly 25 hours and billed me at $100 / hour, that would be $2,500, more than the $1,500 flat rate we agreed at back in August.  I recall you saying that you don’t bill [Company Z] or [Company X] for your legal work, so I understand that aspect.  Let me know how you suggest proceeding.

I’ll be leaving in a bit for the bookclub.  I’ll check in with you via text when I get back.  Thanks [Colleague].  Talk later.

[Laid-off]”

Back in October in Take Two I noted that I’d been dragging my feet in putting my hours together.  Finally I found the motivation.  I responded to his above email saying, “Hey.  This is cool.  I’ll check it out later.  Two weeks, eh?  That’s ambitious, no?  ; )   Just emailed you my hours.  I’m leaving in a bit for the bookclub.  I’ll text you when I get back to Manhattan.  [LL]”  He replied: “ok cool. talk to you later”  I never heard anything about the hours I submitted.  He never engaged me on my request to discuss rates going forward.  Silence is what I got on that topic.  Per the above pattern, he periodically circled back to me with a few more items he needed help on.  Updating something.  Preparing a response or a filing.  Semicolon And is another example.  Then, on January 20, 2010, he sent me this final task:

“hey [laid-off] –

can you deal with this? i got this letter back in response to the articles filed in december.

what’s up with you?

[c]”

I agreed to help him with that task, but later that same day I circled back with this email:

“[Colleague]:

Quick question.  Finances tight this week; I’m late on rent.  (Thought temp paycheck was gonna be more than it was.)  Wondering if you got any updates on when [Company Y] is paying?  I don’t know if that matters as far as paying me, but I had assumed that you were waiting to get that payment.

What’s your thoughts?  We probably should decide on a final number, right?  Or did you want to pay per company instead of for total hours?  Moving towards budget land and trying to gauge where I’m at financially.  Let me know.

Thanks, man.  Hope the trial’s going well!  Tell [former government attorney colleague] I said hey.

[Laid-off]”

This time he did respond:

“[Laid-off] –

Are you kidding. You’re so money these days.
BUT, I do understand the financial stuff.  I was actually waiting on [Company Y] to pay me before I passed it along.  I hope that’s cool.  Otherwise it has to come out of my pocket and to be honest, my pockets are pretty empty, especially considering I’ve been paying for all the audits and fees for [Company Z] out of pocket. Yeah I guess we never did deal with the how much. I guess I was thinking I would write you a check for another $1500 and call it a final bill once I got some money from [Company Y]. Unfortunately, I’m not sure when that’s gonna be. I was going to give them until Feb 1st before sending emails.

[C]”

My response:

“[Colleague]:

Yeah.  Seriously.  You’d think I’d be rolling in it with the hourly wage, right?  But after Uncle Sam took his cut ($500 this week), there was only a little left over to go around for too many bills.  : (

I’m cool with waiting until [Company Y] pays you.  Well, that’s assume you’re not forced to go after him for the money.  ; )  Finances prompted me to check with you, especially as we wrap everything up.  But I don’t want you digging into your own pockets to pay me, especially if we’re in similar boats at the moment.  Well, at least you’ve got the steady job.  : )

As far as amounts: back in August when we first started working together you had said you didn’t want the cost to go over $1,500.  But, of course, we finished that “To Do” list months ago.  I got the $1,000 through [Company X].  So, that’s cool.  That leaves a $500 balance on the initial amount we agreed on.  As far as work since then, were you thinking another $1,500 and then something from [Company Y] once they pay you?  Not sure I understood what you wrote.  That’d mean $3,000 total, $1,000 of which I already received, and then something from [Company Y].  That’s cool with me, man.

Let me know your thoughts.  I’m gonna head to bed now.  I had to work the theatre gig tonight and so I’m gonna try to get in to the temp job at 7am tomorrow to make up for it.  Gotta work it again tomorrow evening.

Knock ‘em dead on that trial!

[Laid-off]”

And we all know the rest.   He came back with one line saying he meant $2,500 total.  My reply I posted in Pushing Back.

Yesterday, a commenter attempted to take me to task without having any of the above information.  He just assumed that he knew what he was talking about and then attempted to slap me around and degrade me, assuming that my work product was sloppy and that the tasks I’d agreed to do took me too long.  Clearly, all the above shows that’s not the case.  At all.  The thirty items listed above were completed within a month or so.  The colleague just kept returning to me for help with new tasks.  Not for help to finish the earlier one’s we’d agreed to.  A better analogy than the commenter’s would be this:

I’m walking down the street and I see you working in your yard.  I comment on how much work you have and offer to help.  You say, “If you can pull the weeds by that fence, plant some flowers, and mow the lawn, I’ll pay you X amount.”  I think about it and say ok.  I begin to work on the assigned tasks.  As I’m working on it, you come back and say, “You know what?  That rose-bush really needs trimming.  And my fence needs painting.  Can you help with that too?”  I agree to it.  We don’t broach the subject of money, however.  Painting and trimming weren’t part of the original agreement, but I get started on that too.  A few weeks pass and I’m walking by and ask if you need help with anything.  You note that a bad storm did damage to your tree and that you really need help mowing the lawn again.  I agree to help.  When it comes time to talk money, I ask for more than the original amount because I did more than we originally agreed to.  No laborer would assume that all the additional tasks tacked on would be included in the original amount we agreed to.  We had an oral contract to mow your lawn, pull weeds, and plant flowers.  And I accepted by beginning to perform.  When you circled back a few times with more work, those were additional tasks outside our first agreement.  If you have someone build a house and agree on the plans and the price, and then come back and request an addition, no one could rightly assume that the initial price agreed upon included subsequent changes.

I’ve been working on and off for this man since August.  The tasks I worked on, and completed, went beyond the inital thirty points above.  And I’ve repeatedly requested to discuss money.  Maybe not as forcefully as I could have.  Instead, the colleague has avoided discussing it.  Any time I asked him for the inital $1,500 repeatedly, he dodged me.  I didn’t press because he was working pro bono as I had been when we met.  It’s now almost six months later and I still haven’t received the entire amount agreed upon yet.

Anyone who thinks that I’m going to back down and just walk away and assume, as that commenter did, that I made a bad business decision, is certifiable.  Next time people, just ask for more details before you start letting spewing “expert” advice about something you know nothing about.

Written by Laid-off Lawyer

February 4, 2010 at 23:27

28 Responses

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  1. jesus christ this must have taken 4 hours to write this

    Bobalino

    February 5, 2010 at 02:08

  2. Take this down. Right away. You cannot publish this sort of detail about your work. There is no better way to ruin your reputation than to be known as a lawyer who has a big mouth.

    flyonthewall

    February 5, 2010 at 05:07

  3. Show me a lawyer without a big mouth! Visit any law firm’s website and you’ll see bragging points. All the clients and matters they’ve handled. Subways in New York are filled with lawyer ads noting medical malpractice successes.

    I didn’t post this to brag. I posted it to explain. And there’s really no detail. Anyone who has gone SEC work has handled 8-Ks or S-1s. Nothing specific here at all. Don’t know what detail you’re referring to.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 5, 2010 at 05:32

  4. This post was a really bad idea. I think you should delete the specifics from the post immediately, and then do some deep thinking about the fundamental purpose of your blog. I think it is helpful for other people trying to get out of debt (like me), and very interesting to read. But you should remember that you do not owe your commenters anything! We are just strangers on the Internet. Don’t let people goad you into revealing matters that should remain private (e.g. your fee discussions, emails quoted in full, the particular work you are doing for your clients) — even with names redacted.

    You are not a firm with years of reputation and practice to rest on. You are a sole attorney in constant need of work. (Also, do you have malpractice insurance? You’re not covered by a firm’s insurance anymore.)

    The legal community is smaller than you think, and more and more these days with sites like ATL out there, it is also very well-connected. One attorney’s misfortune becomes fodder for who knows how many other attorneys’ water cooler conversations, hiring committee discussions, etc. If anyone were ever able to put two-and-two together, if the people you’ve been writing about can recognize themselves in the details, this kind of post can end up haunting you.

    The Internet remembers everything — remove the specifics from the post now and maybe they won’t get cached.

    Concerned Reader

    February 5, 2010 at 07:46

  5. I agree with flyonthewall and concerned reader – take this down. Agree to disagreed with the commenters, but don’t put so much detail of the actual dispute out there that the parties might be identified. I thought the point of your blog was getting out of debt, persuading commenters as to the correctness of your position in a business dispute is a far off tangent and could ultimately come back to haunt you.

    Inviting potential long term trouble that could impact your career is not a good move and could make work prospects more difficult. ‘d hate to see you get so caught up in being right that you sabotage your career.

    govtlawyer

    February 5, 2010 at 07:56

  6. “If you have someone build a house and agree on the plans and the price, and then come back and request an addition, no one could rightly assume that the initial price agreed upon included subsequent changes.”

    Customers try to get free stuff from contractors all the time. Sometimes they are successful (the contractor throws it in because they want good word-of-mouth/referrals, for example) and sometimes they are not.

    You are a lawyer, right? If you are a contractor and tell the judge that you assumed the customer would pay you more for additional work they requested – what is he going to do?

    I’m no lawyer, but he will go by the actual agreement reached by both parties. Not the assumed agreement reached in the mind of one party.

    When he refused to discuss money, you should have refused to do additional work until the issue was settled. You did the work without having him agree on price. As an aside, the amount of money that he is receiving for the project is immaterial to your agreement.

    You did work, he paid you.

    You assume you are owed additional money. He assumed you were being a ‘buddy’, or doing some marketing and doing some additional work for free.

    He has the work product and the money from the client. You have a pocketful of bitterness because you realize you made a bad business decision, but are too proud to admit it.

    Lawyers/businessmen make bad business decisions all the time. The good ones learn from them and know when to cut their losses.

    No one is saying that you should back down. What I said was that if you want additional money, you need to go to small claims because your e-mailing and posting on the web isn’t going to get you there.

    Just be prepared to get laughed out of court.

    ______________________________________________________
    By the way, I am curious. If – hypothetically – the work had taken you only 5 hours (even with all the added tasks) and he got paid only $2000 total by his customer rather than the sum you mention

    but

    he had already paid you $1500

    and

    he wrote you an email that said “Hey, I just found out that my customer is only paying me $2000 total and I gave you $1500 because I thought the work was going to take longer. Since this is the case, can you send me some of that cash back, cause I need to pay rent?”

    How would you respond? If he took you to court?

    Anonymous

    February 5, 2010 at 08:15

  7. I appreciate the concern. And the comment. But if your underlying point is that commenters shouldn’t affect what I write . . . then shouldn’t I not take this down as they ask / advise? Wouldn’t I just be doing the same thing? Go here. No go there. Sit down. Stand up. Etc.

    I really didn’t post all of that for the commenters. They’re just the impetus. The blog is also a way to organize my thoughts and understand where I’m at. And, frankly, it’s also to chronicle all my efforts at getting out of debt. If, as one commenter maintains, working for the colleague was just a financial mistake, then I’m putting that on the blog. Others who read my posts may learn not to proceed without a written agreement. I certainly learned that. Even the one-off research assignment I took on . . . still no word there. Hope I don’t end up in a fee dispute with that one too. Lesson to be learned here is don’t assume lawyers will act ethically. Readers might also not be misled by friendly tone and jovial banter in emails. I had assumed that we were friendly and so therefore he’d do right by me once I started working more and more for him and once he didn’t respond to my money dialogue requests. Instead of assuming he’d be fair, I should have assumed the opposite. These are all lessons learned and part of this journey to deal with money and get out of debt.

    And as for concerns about identifying details: well, if I sued him, much of this would enter the public record anyway. And nothing above is scandalous or damaging. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everything above is factually correct. I suspect that if someone were to refuse to hire me, assuming they deduced my identity, I doubt their primary reason would be because of this one post. And it can be spun either way depending on your viewpoint. One might read this and think, “Yikes. This guy’s a hot mess.” Someone else could see it and think, “Damn! He’s not afraid to push back and stand up for himself.”

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 5, 2010 at 08:52

  8. I actually meant to say in my original comment that I recognized the apparent contradiction. No, you shouldn’t let commenters goad you into doing something harmful to yourself. But — commenters can still give you good advice. In this case, I really do think we’re trying to advise you that you have potentially harmed yourself with this post. That’s why I said you should do some deep thinking about the purpose of your blog: weigh the benefits you’re getting from interacting with strangers on the Internet and getting their honest advice and reactions versus this need you seem to feel to answer to or live up to our expectations.

    I certainly have learned a valuable lesson about getting agreements in writing, but I didn’t need to see all of your emails with your colleague to learn that. I learned it from the first couple of posts you made about this issue.

    If I were hiring you, either for my own affairs or to work at my firm, I would weigh your sense of discretion carefully. Attorney/client privilege and work product confidentiality underpin everything we do. Yes, attorneys are human and we talk about our cases — in bars, restaurants, airports, elevators, around the meeting table. But we’re always warned not to. And those are just ephemeral situations, person-to-person dialogue. This post is in writing, is publicly available on the Internet, and is probably getting cached as I type.

    If I ever found out an attorney I was considering hiring had been posting emails/details from colleagues and clients on the Internet — and more specifically, if I ever found your resume on my desk and figured out you were “Laid-off Lawyer,” I wouldn’t trust you to handle my affairs or my clients’ affairs with the requisite confidentiality and discretion. And not only would I not hire you, I’d tell my contacts in the legal community about you so they would have warning as well. I don’t care at all about whatever principles you think you’re standing up for, and I doubt other attorneys or potential clients will either, because we would see that you fundamentally do not understand THIS principle.

    Concerned Reader

    February 5, 2010 at 09:41

  9. This kind of internal work product is a far cry from advertising content, which typically contains a list of clients and a brief mention of the (otherwise publicly available) outcome for each. Work product and attorney-client privilege should be guarded closely, especially by the lawyer. Your ethical rules demand it. Are you trying to get yourself disbarred?

    Anon

    February 5, 2010 at 09:48

  10. The level of detail you provide adds nothing to the issue initially under discussion. You would be better off redacting it.

    If history is any indicator, now that someone has suggested you do something that is in your best interest, you will spend hours and hours justifying why what you did was the correct thing to do.

    Contrary to what you may think, a lot of people are rooting for you and are trying to give you the benefit of their experience. But ignoring such advice and criticism appears to be an recurring theme of your saga.

    Anonymous

    February 5, 2010 at 10:09

  11. damn there are some righteous commentators around here. they seem to forget that this is YOUR blog. i’d tell them to fuck off.

    bingo

    February 5, 2010 at 11:42

  12. You clearly have no clue about the ethical standards to which attorneys are held.

    Anony

    February 5, 2010 at 12:56

  13. You know? I would have before your comment. I tend to believe in the genuine goodness of people. So therefore disagreement merely a failure to communicate properly and can be solved by further explanation and sharing of opinions, underlying assumptions, etc.

    But I forgot that I already learned that in America people don’t care for
    the most part to understand other people’s points of view. I’m right you’re wrong. I’m Republican. You’re Democrat. I’m a person of faith. You’re not. I learned about dialogue and discussion when I lived in Germany and saw a political system that mandated dialogue and compromise. Not majority rules.

    I know I’ve stayed into left field here. And it’s not directed at you specifically, Anonymous. Just a springboard. And thanks for mentioning that. You save me hours of explaining, thinking people would ultimately understand what I meant. 😉

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 5, 2010 at 13:05

  14. Howdy – interesting the many comments here, after having been blasted on MSN for being in debt, I find you are also being blasted. I really wonder how much of this is people being angry when they realize they are doing all the same things you do, but they’re too terrified to admit to it?

    I have to say, somewhere back a few pages, you mention there was some documentary about people in debt, and you’re hoping to be in that? I was offered a spot on TV after Mia wrote about me, and my response was NO. Maybe it’s because I’m NOT unemployed now, or maybe it’s because I just really do NOT want to be publicly lambasted as you have been, but I think it’s a bad idea to put my face on a screen where too many people may recognize me. I feel as though the anonymity of the WIRR board is better for my motivation as well as being a great place I can ask questions and get practical answers and smart feedback about the debts I have and the way I’m handling them.

    Maybe you wouldn’t mind so much, I don’t know. I just don’t think it’s good for an employer or a co-worker to know your debt situation.

    A few things I have read, though, and I want you to think about this – you mentioned the other night going out with people and then going and buying beers, and you tried to use your credit card, first, then went to get money – if you’re in debt, using your credit card was not the move to make, especially since you were in some club where you’d managed to get in sans cover charge, and you were encouraging people to find ways not to spend – it just seems your move was arbitrary to your design to have an inexpensive evening. Not to mention you wound up with beers other people did not appreciate and did not drink anyway.

    There’s also an ongoing issue with your rent… since you “can’t” move, how about you start selling toys. You like Craigslist, USE it to sell off stuff! No, you won’t get what you paid for it, but you know you should not have purchased the things to begin with. Start de-cluttering your life! You seem to have tooooooo many things you’re trying to juggle and are wondering how to fix them, maybe it’s time to simplify? It certainly couldn’t hurt. And if you’re going to be playing during “downtime” on your phone, why not optimize it a little? Besides cleaning out your closets and clearing off your furniture and walls, you’re also creating less stuff to pack when you DO move!

    A practical rule-of-thumb for clothing: if you haven’t worn it in two years, you probably won’t wear it, if it’s in great shape, sell it, if it’s not, donate it, but get it OUT of your closet. And for every piece of clothing you feel you must purchase, whether for fit or work or whatever, you must give away or sell (or throw away) a similar piece.

    As for your many objects, get yourself some boxes, whether they’re copy paper boxes or go to Staples or somewhere, get a few, and start packing some things up. As you start to de-clutter, you’ll start discovering you don’t know where THAT came from or what you kept THIS for – and you may find some of THIS or THAT is definitely sale-worthy for Craigslist.

    I’ve also seen you trying to determine your expenses, and you’ve listed your debt total, but for all you’re trying to keep ahead of things, have you truly defined all your debts and expenses? Have you really set up a budget? If you haven’t, you need to.

    I think you have a lot more nerve than I do, putting up a blog like this. I have to commend you for that. I hope you make progress.

    Maureen from MP Dunleavy

    February 5, 2010 at 13:16

  15. does anyone who commented so far? what client secret did he reveal? that some company named x or y finished a document or filed an 8-k? 8-ks are PUBLIC filings. that’s no client secret. or maybe everyone thinks that his working 39.5 hours is a client secret? or something privileged? and what’s so secret about this guy asking him to do additional work?

    i don’t think any ethical violation occurred here. not like he attached emails from the colleague. none of the redacted material references strategic client conversations. hell. all the emails discuss is more tasks and then how much money he wants.

    but if you all feel so strongly about it, report him to bar council. don’t know what ethical rule you’d point to that he violated.

    confused

    February 5, 2010 at 13:36

  16. Once an SEC filing is made, the filed document becomes public. Drafts, the process of drafting, how it’s to be completed, the order and timing of completing items – that’s all privileged. And reminder – the privilege belongs to the client. The lawyer does not get to choose to waive it unilaterally. If a company has yet to go public, it is incredibly important to keep such details confidential. Risk running afoul of the SEC at your peril. Not to mention, the other attorney probably wouldn’t want confidential info, like what x, y, and z paid for his services, to be made public.

    Anony

    February 5, 2010 at 14:23

  17. I wonder if [Colleague] visits this blog?

    Anonymous

    February 5, 2010 at 15:10

  18. I finally arrived at the hotel in Orlando and am able to sit down and read through these comments.

    Out of an abundance of caution, I opted to delete the “To Do” list that I had initially included above. In retrospect, it didn’t add much to the dialogue and the companies we worked for aren’t involved remotely in any fee dispute that might somehow arise.

    I’m not going to rewrite the entire post because a few people out there feel it’s inappropriate to post redacted emails on my blog. Sorry. I disagree. There’s nothing in the bodies of those emails that relates to any clients. And now without a list of tasks it would be even that much more difficult to do investigative work and figure out which ones. I didn’t divulge any client secrets, even more so now that I deleted the To Do list. And “work product” only applies in anticipation of litigation; clearly inapplicable here. Maybe posting the emails were a bit bad form, but it clearly doesn’t violate any ethical rule.

    From the New York Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 1.6: “‘Confidential information’ consists of information gained during or relating to the representation of a client, whatever its source, that is
    (a) protected by the attorney-client privilege,
    (b) likely to be embarrassing or detrimental to the client if disclosed, or
    (c) information that the client has requested be kept confidential.
    ‘Confidential information’ does not ordinarily include (i) a lawyer’s legal knowledge or legal research or (ii) information that is generally known in the local community or in the trade, field or profession to which the information relates.”

    Clearly (b) doesn’t apply. (c) doesn’t because I don’t think the clients ever knew involved in helping the colleague. Thus (a) is also tricky; I wasn’t really representing the client. There wasn’t a contract between me and any of those companies. Arguably the colleague broke the companies’ privileges by talking to me about their legal situations and having me work for him without those companies’ consent. He didn’t have permission to share their information with me. But regardless, anything I learned I treated and would continue to treat as within attorney-client privilege. But again, nothing I said above even remotely falls under within something confidential under the rules. It is generally known in the legal and business communities that companies get audits and that companies file 8-Ks. I didn’t disclose dates or any information regarding the reason for those 8-Ks or what the company’s plan was in preparing it.

    So enough on that already and back to the point here: getting out of debt and getting me money that gets me out of debt. Don’t forget that the rules explicitly carve out a break in confidentiality in these situations: “A lawyer may reveal or use confidential information to the extent that the lawyer reasonably believes necessary . . . (5)(ii) to establish or collect a fee.” Good question how that plays out when it’s one lawyer against another and the first lawyer didn’t ask the client if he could share the fees. Obviously this isn’t a forum to collect fees. If anything I attempted to “establish” that I am owed a fee. That’s all.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 5, 2010 at 15:14

  19. Dude, if the task had only taken five hours I never would have taken the money from him to begin with! Refer back to prior posts. I noted that I initially thought I was just going to be doing some proofreading and such—simple tasks that wouldn’t take much time and something I wouldn’t have charged for.

    So, if our To Dos only taken a short time, I wouldn’t have taken his money. It’s only because it has taken longer, much longer, and because he’s come back to me repeatedly with new and different tasks, that I started thinking, “hey…I’m helping to line his pockets. I want a cut myself. That’s just not fair. Or Right.”

    Again: I’ll repeat for the 647th time. He didn’t pay me the entire $1,500 yet. He had one company cut me a check from the company’s books and that was only for $1,000. So $500 of the original amount—not something extra—is still outstanding like five months later.

    I haven’t asked for some exorbitant amount. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’d be fine with $4,000: $2,500 more than we agreed upon. Hell—I’d probably take $3,000 total: double the initial amount. But when the first 1K came from a company and he wanted to only take from his own money the exact same amount we agreed to, then I pushed back and said no way.

    Whether I get anything remains to be seen, but I am certainly going to try.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 5, 2010 at 15:28

  20. No. I’ve mentioned it multiple times to him. He just moves on to another topic. Never even asked what the title is. Oh well. Maybe if he had been he would have paid me sooner!

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 5, 2010 at 15:34

  21. When you started doing work for your colleague’s client, an attorney-client relationship was formed between you and that client for purposes of privilege. It doesn’t matter that you never met the client or signed a contract with that client. And for fee dispute purposes, AC-privileged info is typically disclosed in court and even then, it’s vetted by a judge to avoid unnecessary disclosure and heavily redacted. It is NOT put up on a blog. You’d be best served if you took a far more expansive view of privilege matters in the future.

    Anony

    February 5, 2010 at 16:01

  22. Of course this isn’t an adjudication forum. (Thought it’s feeling that way of late.) Just a bit of poetic license.

    But I’m not so sure about your first point:

    Rule 1.5(g) says:
    “A lawyer shall not divide a fee for legal services with another lawyer who is not associated in the same law firm unless:
    (1) the division is in proportion to the services performed by each lawyer or, by a writing given to the client, each lawyer assumes joint responsibility for the representation;
    (2) the client agrees to employment of the other lawyer after a full disclosure that a division of fees will be made, including the share each lawyer will receive, and the client’s agreement is confirmed in writing; and
    (3) the total fee is not excessive.”

    The colleague doesn’t have a law firm. And I didn’t not become associated with him in his law firm. Note the AND after number two: no writing from the client either. So he may have breached privilege by not getting permission from the client first to bring me on board.

    Just sayin’.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 5, 2010 at 16:22

  23. He absolutely refuses to make a budget. We’ve been encouraging him to do that for weeks now with no luck.

    Anon

    February 5, 2010 at 19:09

  24. Guess you’re not entitled to ANY share of the fees then, otherwise you’ll breach your state’s ethical rules and risk sanctions (note the above rule isn’t limited to either of the attorneys in such an arrangement). Way to shoot yourself in the foot.

    And whether you can collect fees is entirely separate from whether you formed an AC relationship. See, eg, pro bono work.

    Anon

    February 5, 2010 at 19:18

  25. Yeah . . . I’ve been feeling a bit uneasy about the whole thing for awhile now. Especially once I was “paid” by one of the company’s books. Time to put in a call to the state bar’s ethics hotline to inquire about how to proceed.

    Good thing we had this discussion. Gonna proceed the right way.

    Laid-off Lawyer

    February 5, 2010 at 21:39

  26. I’ve held your feet to the fire on a number of occasions, so I’ll stop for the moment to say this a good move to make. You might also want to point out this rule to your colleague and see if he already, unbeknownst to you, secured the client’s written approval. If that’s the case, you should have a copy for your records. If that’s not the case, you may be able to secure such an agreement now. I don’t practice in your jurisdiction, so I don’t know the technicalities involved (ie, whether you can execute such an agreement after the work has been done, etc).

    Anon

    February 5, 2010 at 23:52

  27. Please tell me you don’t think you have a reasonable belief that it’s necessary to post all of this on your blog to collect a fee.

    Anonymous

    February 6, 2010 at 00:01

  28. This may sound very elementary but did you sign any documents with your own name – or were letters and other materials created by you for the other attorney’s signature? The reason I am asking is becuase I know someone who went through a somewhat similar situation and attorney #2 claimed that attorney #1 was brought in solely for paralegal work, not attorney work. My friend, attorney #1, was unable to produce proof of ‘attorney work’ contributed to the project. This may not make a difference in your jurisdiction.

    Donnelly

    February 6, 2010 at 00:03


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