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How Not to Collect Your Attorney's Fees

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

In the law business, there are ways to collect attorney's fees and ways not to collect them.

In hourly cases, collecting fees in advance is usually the best. Collecting them along the way is good, too.

But trying to collect them after a case is over may not be so good. And then there's this -- the worst way to do it.

Bad Judgment

Rachel Yosha, an Arizona attorney, committed the unforgivable sin of threatening a client with criminal action if the client did not pay her fees. As with most paths to sin, she started out innocently.

Yosha had represented the client on a limited-scope basis in a custody matter. The attorney helped the parties reach an agreement, and she appeared in court in the case.

After completing her services, Yosha tried to collect her fees. It did not go well, and she ultimately obtained a judgment against the client.

The debtor left the state, however, so Yosha resorted to more aggressive tactics. She sent an email threatening to initiate criminal proceedings if the fees were not paid. The client knew what to do next.

Threatening Email

That email became damning evidence against Yosha in a disciplinary hearing. According to the record, she also threatened to contact the client's probation officer and immigration.

The discipline panel said lawyers sometimes wrongly threaten others with legal proceedings, but it is especially wrong to threaten a former client. Plus, Yosha used evidence she acquired in the custody case against the client.

The panel said Yosha deserved a "short-term suspension" of 30 days and two years' probation. The Arizona Supreme Court agreed.

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