In this, our last column of the year, we are taking a break from the big issues that have held our attention in the past several months: the staggering toll that COVID has taken in our country and across the planet; the dangerous polarization of our country and its threat to democracy, and the unprecedented lame duck exercise of the federal death penalty that we wrote about in our last column.
Like many of you, we have taken refuge in work. In that spirit, we offer a column that focuses more narrowly and looks at a recent change to Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5. The change adds a new Comment 5 and affects any lawyer who uses contingency fees in their practice. The scenario the new comment addresses is this: client hires Lawyer A on a contingency fee basis, later terminates Lawyer A and retains Lawyer B in a new contingency fee agreement. Of course, clients have the right to terminate an attorney at any time. However, termination does not deprive Lawyer A of his right to recover, pursuant to a theory of quantum meruit, “a proper amount for the services that he has rendered.” See Meyer, Darragh, Buckler, Bebenek & Eck. v. Law Firm of Malone Middleman, 635 Pa. 427, 446 (2016). How does Lawyer’s A right to assert entitlement to a portion of the recovery affect the relationship and duties between Lawyer B and the client?
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