BIG BOSS SUCKS! (I hereby recant the Big Boss Rocks ..so far post from weeks ago but will leave it posted consistent with good Blog form).
As you read in this previous post, Big Boss actually took the position that my hourly time should be valued the same as a paralegal and associates for the purposes of splitting quantum meruit fees. Such an approach would have potentially netted them hundreds of thousands of dollars in excessive unearned fees on our case splits. They maneuvered the entire day to make me agree with their position. They leveraged (from their misinformed point of view) their belief that I would be desperate for money to help my practice survive (did I mention I am thriving and have hired virtual two law clerks and a virtual paralegal). They leveraged the word of the partner I had negotiated with stating repeatedly that he agreed with their position.
The day with filled with lies, demeaning comments and ethical breaches. Those bastards actually suggested that I must be desperate for money to try to avoid the plain language of our one sentence 'good faith' agreement which only mentioned 'hours,' not billing rates. They then had the gall to offer to loan me the disputed money which they would take out of the next settlement money because they were concerned about me and my families well being! Un_F_in_Believable!
They continue to reject the basic ethical principle that fees between lawyers must be disclosed and agreed to by the client. They actually told the client that the contract was between the firms, not her. They reject the principle that fees must always be reasonable (there is no plausible argument that two paralegals and two new associates should be billed at the partner rate), fully disclosed to the client and approved up front.
One great quote by Big Boss before I stormed out of the their offices was that there will be no discussions of ethics (which stupid me thought controlled the issues we were talking about). The other was that Big Boss proudly stated that he specifically drafted the fee split contract so that that the fee split ratio said "attorney/paralegal hours" not attorney/paralegal hours multiplied by billing rate" or quantum meruit! In my opinion, the whole thing was a set up by big boss to allow himself the argument he made today. Cold, calculated , premeditated, no question. Just his style ... [One point for Big Boss on the rough and tumble playground of capitalism].
After I stormed out of Big Bosses office, the partner who I had negotiated the entire deal with came back from a trip at the end of the day and agreed with my version of the negotiations and the quantum meruit meaning of "attorney/paralegal hours." It is possible his decision to support my position (which Big Boss now attributes to a misunderstanding) was driven by a desire to avoid conflict or that he knew the Big Boss and I were thinking two different things and simply never mentioned it to either of us. He certainly knew that the deal being shoved down my throat had never been mentioned in all of our discussions about quantum meruit fee splitting. Did he think I would simply roll over like so I did all too often while I worked for Big Boss ....
Regardless how today happened, the real problem is that Big Boss could even take the position in the first instance or craft a contract which aspired to such a result. The problem is using client money as leverage in negotiations. The real problem is attempting to leverage my firms cash flow to obtain unearned money. The real problem is failing to spend one second reviewing the ethics rules or thinking of the client's interest during the entirety of the process. The problem is another partner telling one client she had no choice between counsel because the they signed a retainer contract with his firm. The problem is telling telling staff to stop working on cases during representation because Big Boss thinks the cases might be leaving with me or knows they are not leaving and does not want to risk any more hours or money on the case. The problem is telling attorneys and paralegals to start billing on hourly fee cases because they are about to settle. The problem is demanding huge trial retainers from clients one week before stepping into court for trial under threat of withdrawal. The problem is that these men who run our proefesion somehow have convinced themselves that they always deserve the windfall they claimed from others whose work made it possible. The problem is that they see clients, associates and partners only as money and profit. The problem is that their egos preclude them from ever seeing anything except their own interest...
The problem ... will never be resolved if someone does not step up and do something to stop it.
Now the question must be posed which I hope you expected to be posed ... Do I have an ethical obligation to report this conduct to the bar association?
Now there is a LexThink question which gets at the heart of the bigger issue ... Here is another. How will we change the system if we continue to do nothing?