William Gage of Buck Keenan in Houston.
William Gage of Buck Keenan in Houston. (Courtesy photo)

A former lawyer at Walne Law has filed a lawsuit against the Houston firm seeking a declaratory judgment that he is entitled to 25 percent of the fee from a contract dispute that is set for trial in October.

Andrew Raish, now an in-house lawyer at Buc-ee’s in Lake Jackson, is seeking a declaratory judgment that his employment contract with the firm is enforceable and he is entitled to a percentage of any fee generated from the suit, along with actual and punitive damages. He seeks up to $1 million from Walne Law.

Raish alleges in the petition in Raish v. Walne Law that he is entitled to the fee because of terms of the employment agreement he entered into when he took a job at Walne Law in 2013. He alleges the firm claims he has no interest in the litigation.

Tracy Walne, a principal in Walne Law, said the allegations in the petition are baseless. Walne said his firm has no interest in the suit.

“It’s foolish of him to file that lawsuit and quite ungrateful in view of the help I’ve provided to him. … I’m just greatly disappointed in him having taken this action,” Walne said.

In the petition, filed on Sept. 8 in the 11th District Court in Harris County, Raish alleges he brought client Charles Dresser IV, who was involved in a commercial dispute, to the firm. “Given the nature of the Dresser matter and the potential for recovery of substantial damages, Walne Law entered into a contingency fee contract with Dresser,” Raish alleges in the petition.

He also alleges Kelly Walne, the son of Tracy Walne who was then an attorney at Walne Law, worked on the Dresser matter with him, and Raish “recommended and facilitated” the involvement of a partner in Porter Hedges of Houston to assist Walne Law with the suit.

Raish alleges he left the firm on July 31, 2015, and was “assured” by Tracy Walne that his employment agreement would apply to the Dresser matter after his departure.

However, Raish alleges in the petition that when Kelly Walne left the firm a few months later, he negotiated with his father for Walne Law to terminate its representation of the Dresser matter so he could represent Dresser and attempt to secure the fee “for himself alone.”

Raish alleges that Walne Law drafted a termination letter that represents that it will not assert a right to any interest in compensation from the Dresser matter and that no one else has any interest in any recovery. Raish alleges the letter was not authored or signed by Dresser, and it also does not specify if Walne Law or Tracy Walne received any consideration for conveying the Dresser matter to Kelly Walne.

Raish alleges that after he learned Kelly Walne was handling the Dresser matter at his new firm, he contacted Walne Law and Kelly Walne to confirm they would honor the agreement and pay him 25 percent of any fee collected, but they responded that they did not believe Raish had any interest in the matter.

The underlying suit, which was filed in May 2016, is set for trial in October in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Tracy Walne said Raish is not entitled to any fee because his firm is not entitled to any fee.

However, William Gage, a partner in Buck Keenan in Houston who represents Raish, said his client not only brought Dresser to the firm, but worked on the preparation, fact development and drafting of the suit before he left the firm.

Senior reporter Brenda Sapino Jeffreys covers the business of law in Texas. Contact her at bjeffreys@alm.com. On Twitter: @BrendaSJeffreys.