Recent Fee-Sharing Cases Could Leave a Body Confused
There’s been several attorney/paralegal fee-sharing cases reported in the news recently that could understandably leave a body confused, even people who ought to know better, like an attorney who’s practiced law for more than 50 years.
Last month a Florida jury found that paralegal Patricia Patterson had a binding oral contract
for 10% of her supervising attorney’s legal fees earned from any cases she resolved. The disputed fees weren’t peanuts either, with Patterson claiming she was owed $87,000. Although such a fee-sharing contract is unethical, and the supervising attorney was still denying its existence at the conclusion of the trial, the jury said “pay up.”
Today Law.com is reporting
that sole practitioner Martin Burger, a lawyer born in 1924 who’s been practicing law for 57 years, received a sharp rap on the wrist, albeit only a reprimand, from the New Jersey Supreme Court, who ruled that he had violated rules of professional conduct by sharing fees with his paralegal, Lita Biederman.
Biederman seems to have had a much sweeter deal than Patterson in that she was paid 50% of the fees Burger generated from immigration cases he received due to her contacts in the local Filipino community. Biederman also has one up on Patterson in that she’s already received her money (without costly litigation) – to the tune of approximately $230,000 paid to her company, Darius Group, over a six-year period.
It looks like Biederman found a creative, but unethical way to supplement an unexceptional regular salary of $200 per week, which arguably is peanuts for a qualified paralegal. The arrangement seems to have worked out fine for her, but then she’s not the one getting the rap on the wrist from the state supreme court.