(Editors Notes 9/8/13: The Defendant, divorce client, filed for Bankruptcy after the RI Supreme Court rendered its decision, discharging this debt. This whole proceeding was a massive waste of time and resources! The potential for an annoying and time consuming counterclaim or a bankruptcy filing is not the only reason lawyers should not litigate against former clients. It is not advisable for attorneys to file a lawsuit against a custody or family law client because some of these clients will file a disciplinary complaint against the attorney as retaliation.
The attorney then has to spend hours responding to the ethics complaint, even if it is merit-less. Also, Malpractice Insurance Companies detest attorneys filing lawsuits against former clients in fee disputes. Often, an attorney feels it necessary to submit a counterclaim to the attorneys’s malpractice insurance company. The liability corporation may require a big deductible to defend the malpractice counterclaim.
A counterclaim by an ex divorce client puts the Rhode Island divorce attorney in a catch 22 situation. If the a RI family law lawyer does not report the counterclaim to the insurance company, then the insurance company has no obligation to pay the claim. But however, if the claim is reported, then the Providence child custody lawyer may lose a $5,000, to $15,000 deductible. The lawyer must pay the deductible even if the cause of action is frivolous or merit-less. Such counterclaims may also raise a lawyer’s insurance premiums going forward)
- lawyer suing former client
- sue client for non payment
- counter sue lawyer fees
- can a divorce lawyer sue for unpaid fees
- client not paying legal fees
- can my attorney sue me for legal fees
- Rhode Island attorney charging lien
- complaint for unpaid legal fees
This is an absurd story out of RI and shows why a lawyer should almost never sue an ex client.
Mary Seguin hires a RI Law Firm, Smith Law P.C to represent her in two messy Rhode Island Family Court Matters – “a divorce action involving her former husband, Marc Seguin (Mr. Seguin), and a paternity action involving Seguin’s former boss at a prior place of employment.” Smith law. v. Mary Y. Seguin Eventually, Smith Law makes a good decision to file a motion to withdraw- claiming it was owed $30,000 in legal fees. Id. Smith Law was allowed to withdraw. Id. Finally!
This should have ended this law firms involvement in this case so that the RI Law firm could go about its business representing, hopefully, paying clients
Why would any attorney in a RI Family Court allow a divorce and Paternity client to owe $30,000 without withdrawing representation in the Family Court sooner?
# Editor’s note 6 /2/14 It appears that Ms. Seguin was up to some of her old tricks. After the RI Supreme Court ruled, she filed a federal lawsuit in the UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND. “She brought suit against Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, Judge Paul Suttell, Chief Judge of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and two Rhode Island state officials,alleging claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, federal criminal statutes, and state law, arising out of a series of orders issued in cases relating to custody proceedings involving Seguin.” http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-rid-1_12-cv-00708/pdf/USCOURTS-rid-1_12-cv-00708-0.pdf Case 1:12-cv-00708-JD-LM Document 42 Filed 12/14/12 The federal court Judge dismissed this cause of action “because the complaint does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Id.########
RI divorce lawyer should have withdrawn from case
In my opinion, the first mistake these Rhode Island Family Law Lawyers made was not withdrawing as soon as it became apparent that the client was not going to pay the bill. For its Part, “On May 1, 2007, the law firm filed a complaint against Seguin in the Superior Court seeking to recover unpaid legal fees in the amount of $31,069.17, plus statutory interest and costs” Smith Law. v. Mary Y. SEGUIN. Rather then running for the hills from this client and focusing their attention on existing clients and obtaining paying new clients, Smith Law, in my opinion, effectively doubled down on this matter. Unfortunately, if this were blackjack they essentially decided to double down when their first two cards equaled 6. They should have ran away, far away and cut their losses at that time, but they decided to litigate.
Sadly, they then spent the next 5 years litigating the matter using countless resources in an attempt to collect a potentially worthless judgment.
After the law firm, in my opinion, decided to (in essence) double down on its weak hand (even if the law firm obtained a judgment it is not clear that they probably would ever get paid), Ms Seguin Predictably ” filed an answer, as well as a counterclaim, setting forth fifteen counts against the law firm—specifically, Seguin alleged: (1) false advertising; (2) deceptive trade practices; (3) fraud; (4) wire fraud; (5) mail fraud; (6) RICO violations; (7) breach of fiduciary duty; (8) breach of fiduciary duty by trustee; (9) breach of trust; (10) grand theft; (11) tampering with/altering legal records; (12) legal malpractice; (13) negligence; (14) breach of contract; and (15) breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Id
“Discovery proceeded between the parties for over two years.”Id.
“Subsequently, on March 16, 2010, the law firm filed a motion for summary judgment on Seguin’s counterclaim.” id. Smith Law’s ‘big victory’ so to speak in this case came on paper when “the motion justice granted the law firm’s motion for summary judgment on Seguin’s counterclaim and also granted partial final judgment, at the law firm’s request, pursuant to Rule 54(b) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure.” Id.
“We note that Seguin has filed numerous motions and memorandum with this Court in connection with her appeal, including, but not limited to: motions for sanctions against the appellee for fraud upon the Court; motions for de-novo appellate review; motions to vacate a void order for noncompliance with de novo appellate standard; a motion to proceed to full briefing; and a request for judicial notice. We have considered such motions during the pend-ency of Seguin’s appeal and have denied them by various orders of this Court.” Id.
The Rhode Island Supreme Court affirmed the RI Superior Court’s motion for summary judgment on Defendant’s Counterclaim!
Pathetically, this does not end this fiasco as the law firm has not obtained a judgment on its collection case and has not obtained a penny of funds from their former client yet. I hope this firm is not paying out of pocket for its own lawyer. My only Piece of Advice to this Law Firm is MOVE ON! RUN FOR THE HILLS. Concentrate your resources in other money generating endeavors! Cut your losses now because you should have cut your losses years ago. Stop wasting time and effort on this matter!