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Solo In Chicago

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

So this is why "they" say never sue clients...

There was an interesting appellate ruling out of the First District Appellate court last week...Wolf v. Wolf. Take a read, essentially a lawyer had represented a wife in a dissolution of marriage proceeding, and lawyer filed suit against client for unpaid fees. And the clients response: lawsuit for legal malpractice! Trial court had dismissed the legal malpractice suit but the appellate court reversed.

Take a read through it, it's a critical read for those of you (me included) in the domestic relations field. Essentially the plaintiff/wife entered into a marital settlement agreement to settle the dissolution of marriage case. It sounds like the wife testified at a prove-up that she was satisfied with the agreement and the representation by the attorney. After the dissolution was over apparently the now ex-wife discovered assets of the husband that were not known to her when she entered into the marital settlement agreement.

What I'd like to know and what isn't in the appellate court case is whether or not the marital settlement agreement (MSA) contained waiver language saying that I client know that we didn't do as much discovery as would be ideal because I client wanted to settle the case and get it over with quickly...this is often included in MSAs. Because this general situation arises all the time in divorce cases that settle fairly quickly and you as lawyer know you haven't uncovered everything you'd like to but the client wants the case over. So you throw some of this "waiver" language in the MSA. If the "waiver" language doesn't do the trick do we have to extend cases for discovery purposes merely to protect ourselves??


At 5:50 PM, Blogger David Tarvin said...

In my opinion, you do. I just handled a Motion to Vacate on a similar issue. We are waiting for the decision. Our discovery was informal. Adverse attorney gave us letter 2 months before trial enclosing military discharge form, which said hubby gets no separation pay. Lo and behold, 5 days later, military reverses decision, but they did not disclose to us. In the meantime, client owes substantial sum. Do I try to collect? I don't know....

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Peter said...

I agree that we should sue clients if they fail to abide by payment agreements. I think in my mind I just make sure that these cases are ones where my representation has been impeccable so I'm not open to any counter-suit. And I think for most lawyers this is the vast majority of cases.


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