My question involves malpractice by a lawyer in the state of: FLA
I recently consulted an Attorney on my Unfair Dismissal case. I was fired without written warning, notice or probation after 10 months. Not only I was shocked but all my colleagues as I have an excellent reputation and work ethic however it transpired that it was a set up - the Bank was moving it's Operations overseas and wanted to downsize - so did so unethically.
At the consultation, (which I paid $325+ for) my Attorney suggested that suing would be prohibitive as any award would be far outweighed by attorney fees. So, at his suggestion I engaged him simply to represent me at the Labour Tribunal Meeting at an agreed charge of 3 hours (3 x $325).
The argument was that had I been given the required 3 months notice and written warnings etc - then I would have been employed more than a year and qualified for redundancy payment.
As it turns out, my Lawyer was unable to attend the Tribunal meeting and I ended up representing myself.
I won the case but was not awarded cash as I was at the Bank for less than 1 year (although it would have been over a year with the required 3 months notice).
I decided to appeal and my Attorney presented notice of appeal and promised to represent me at the Appeal Tribunal Meeting.
Notice of the Appeal meeting came and my Attorney once again said that he could not attend as he had a prior commitment.
In the meantime, the Bank made offer of settlement for a small amount $1500 which would have probably been the same as the Tribunal would have awarded anyway.
I accepted and asked my lawyer to agree the settlement.
So, in summary - I hired my Attorney as follows:-
1). To represent me at the Tribunal Meeting (which he could not do)
2). To give notice of Appeal ( which he did)
3). To represent me at the Appeal Meeting (which he could not do)
4). To contact the Banks' Attorneys and accept the settlement (which he did).
I have just received an Attorney's Fee Statement for nearly $ 7,000.00 for services rendered and I asked him what services he had rendered (as I had, after all , ended up representing myself).
I had no objection to paying for the couple of letters and E-Mails referred to in points 2 &4 however, he had sudden moved from the original fee of $975 (which was for representation which he did not do) to nearly 7 times this amount for a couple of E-Mails and letters.
He claimed to require compensation for research and reading E-Mail correspondence from myself (which I did NOT insruct him to do - although I expected his 3 hour fee charge to include 2 hours research plus 1 hour at the meeting) . In any event, the argument for the case was covered at the initial consultation meeting.
He became very offended at my querying his charges and finally said that if I paid him the $975 immediately , then the matter would be concluded. Remember now, the $ 975 fee was for research and representation at the Tribunal Meeting (which he could not do anyway).
By way of compromise, I sent him the full amount of my compensation award $1500 but in retrospect, I think I was a bit hasty even with that amount (after all, - IF he had performed the services he was hired for - I would have only expected to pay $ 2,000.00 tops but he did not perform the services other than a couple of letters and E-Mails).
He may have researched until he was blue in the face (though not requested to do so) - however, this was of no use to me if he could not represent me as he was hired to do.
Questions: Did he have a legal right to charge me for services not rendered?
How much is a couple of E-Mails and Letters worth ?
Should I have even paid what was originally agreed if those
specific duties not performed (ie Representation at the Meetings) ?