These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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8-Bills and Fees

36-Withdrawal from Representations

A former federal worker hired a lawyer on an hourly basis to pursue an administrative disability retirement benefit case, but later used another lawyer under a contingency arrangement. The client fired the second lawyer after successfully obtaining a lump sum payment and a lifetime monthly annuity from the government, but before all of the necessary paperwork was completed. The Bar indicates that the propriety of the lawyer's conduct depends on the facts. Even if the client agrees, a lawyer may not charge an unreasonable fee. A contingent fee arrangement is appropriate if there is an "actual risk of nonpayment and a res from which the fee can be paid." A client and lawyer may enter into a "mixed" contingent fee arrangement in which the lawyer combines an hourly rate with a percentage of the res if successful. A lawyer may sue a former client for unpaid fees, but may not seek a larger fee if the client challenges the original fee request (if there is no basis for the increase). A lawyer fired before completing a contingent fee case may only recover in quantum meruit (the Bar indicates that a trier of fact must determine if that general rule applies to this situation.

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn