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BigLaw or PigLaw? Big Firms Fight Over $10 Million Settlement Fee

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 01, 2019 | Last updated on April 05, 2019

Contingency fee lawyers know that pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered, and it has nothing to do with raising animals.

It has to do with being excessively greedy. Even if that's redundant, it makes some sense when it comes to settling a contingency case.

Two BigLaw firms are fighting over fees in such a case. No one is saying who's the pig and who's the hog. Just saying...

BigLaw v. BigLaw

Manatt Phelps & Phillips is suing its former partner, who settled a case for $10 million. The firm says Benjamin Chew took its former client, and claims he owes the firm 30 percent of the fee.

Chew settled the case after he left Manatt for Brown Rudnick, another large firm. At the same time, Rudolph Geist and his company RJGLaw also left Manatt to go with Chew.

In the lawsuit, Manatt claims that the client agreed to pay the firm 30 percent in the case. Manatt, however, received nothing from the settlement.

More often, fee disputes play out between clients and their lawyers through private arbitration. This time, the players are going public in Washington DC Superior Court.

Courting Attorney's Fees

The trial court will decide who gets paid and how much, if any. But the court of public opinion can be costly, too.

Barry Gomberg learned that lesson the hard way. After his former client left, he tried to assert a lien on the client's subsequent settlement.

The U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals wiped it out for various reasons, and also raised the issue for the State Bar. It's a different case, of course.

But for the public record, that's not fat. That's slaughtered.

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