A question that arises again and again in emergency cases is whether the reimbursement of the costs incurred by the lawyer to pursue the case depends on the outcome. Rule 4-200(A)(3) of the California Rules of Business Conduct allows the attorney to make the reimbursement of costs dependent on the outcome of the dispute. However, not all contingency fee agreements include costs as part of the contingency. It is best to make sure that the customer clearly understands this problem. If the lawyer expects the costs to be reimbursed, regardless of the outcome, a clear and unambiguous explanation to that effect should be included in the section of the mandate that deals with costs. It may also be helpful to include a brief explanation of the difference between costs and fees. This is a case involving well-known Los Angeles attorney Hillel Chodos, who did not have a written schedule or emergency agreement with an ex-client, a woman involved in a divorce case (including a Marvin trial). Mr. Chodos charged $1,000 an hour for his time, but had to sue the ex-client for restoring quantum meruits due to the lack of a warrant and had a jury award him $7.8 million, his Lodestar 1,800 hours for divorce work, plus a multiplier of five — meaning the jury increased his hourly rate to $5,000. Such a result came after a trial in which Mr.
Chodos and his ex-client made very contradictory statements about the value of his services, the time he spent (or should have spent) and the results in divorce cases (although the results seemed quite extraordinary). Since § 6148 expressly allows a client to draw up a fee contract if the legal requirements of the mandate are not met, it is crucial to comply with the rules. (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 6148, Subd. (c).) If a fee contract is declared void for this reason, you have the right to charge „reasonable fees“ under a quantum theory of collection. The California Supreme Court has just adopted a broadly considered opinion in Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton v. J-M Manufacturing Company, Inc., Case No. S232946 (Cal. Supreme Court August 30, 2018) (published), although it attracted majority and concurring/dissenting opinions of more than 70 pages, with the majority decision having been drafted by Justice Kruger. DCA 1/5 reversed the decision and concluded that the trial court erred in its narrow interpretation of the mandate agreement.
On the contrary, in the interpretation of contracts, the mutual intention of the parties at the time of conclusion of the contract determines the interpretation. (Code Civ. § 1636.) Consequently, the court of first instance should have interpreted the contract as a whole in such a way as to interpret the mutual intention of the parties. Focusing only on the sole clause relating to the cousin`s payments, the court of first instance interpreted that the defendant client was not liable for the unpaid fees/expenses of the plaintiff law firm if the common intention of the parties was that the defendant be liable for the fees/costs and pay all the fees/costs, which were not paid by cousin. In Pierson v. Burlison, Case No. B244908 (2d Dist., Div. 4 Jan. 22, 2014) (unpublished), the Court of Appeal ruled on two things that were relevant in the areas of the mandate agreement and fees: (1) An invalid lien provision did not invalidate the entire mandate agreement; Fees may be charged for services provided as part of the holdback, including contingency fees; and (2) an invalid lien clause for an invalid lawyer did not eviscerated a contractual fee clause in relation to the fee claim, although no appeal was brought against the fee reference after the judgment, so the discussion about it was an alternative reason to maintain what happened when fees were added to a successful party under the mandate agreement[…].