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Attorney Fees After Firing?


Devil_Dog

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Hi Everyone,

I just received a new decision and have some retro coming. My question is about the lawyer fees. I fired mine during the appeal / remand. Is she entitled to her full fee without re-course? She filed all the paperwork taking herself off the case about a year before the BVA decision. The Hartford RO just told me they are withholding her full fee. Is there any recourse or am I just screwed? Thanks.

Mike

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  • HadIt.com Elder

This is a good question if she took her self off your claim I would think that she would not get

any thing unless she still had your POA and was the lawyer of record, did you revoke her POA

with the VA..

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  • Moderator

I Agree with you jerrel,

and it is a good question? if she don't get paid who does?? unless of course the veteran did it all on his own? maybe she would get a small % fee for filling the documents? This is where ''maybe'' POA as its Advantages

be a good topic to bring up on hadit radio show some times!

Buck!

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There are regulations if you need to fight those legal fees.

I posted them here somewhere years ago.

They are based on a 5 point criteria.

I helped a local vet fight 8,000 in legal fees but he never contacted me again,after I prepared a NOD with evidence of how little they did and why most if not all of the fee should not be paid to them......he must have succeeded.I never heard from him again.and nothing ever showed up at the BVA site.

I was the only person ( this was volunteer work i did for my former vetrep) who had ever read his BVA decision.

He was at the CAVC twice and still no one, not any lawyer he had, ever read the decision.

The key to his award ( it took about 11 years) was a clue ( one single word) within the very first paragraph of the last BVA denial.

Edited by Berta (see edit history)
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  • HadIt.com Elder

Thanks Buck this topic would make a good radio show and we will put one together,,Devil_Dog was listed

as unrepresented then I would think that the lawyer would not be entitled to the full amount. JMO

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I agree jerrel

he does need to send a copy return receipt of the REVOKED LETTER to the Heartful RO they should send back the difference if they take her fee out.

JMO

Buck!

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I would take a close look at the agreement you signed with your former attorney. If the work on your appeal was substantially completed prior to the decision, and you say you revoked the POA only a year before the decision was made which implies it was, then you would have a challenge on your hands refusing her the fee. She would also be within her rights to pursue reimbursement for her expenses incurred on your behalf like copies, postage, phone bills, that kind of thing

Despite both parties agreeing to your revoking her POA, what matters in this instance is the amount of work done on your behalf prior to the revocation. I could see why the VA would pay her the fee and let you and her settle your disagreement the way most of us do, which unfortunately may involve a lawsuit if you both can't arrive at an amicable agreement.

My husband's agreement with his veterans law attorney addresses such a situation, so I am assuming most agreements of this nature would address this eventuality.

Edited by lotzaspotz (see edit history)
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Dog: What exactly does your Legal contract stat regarding parting ways? Short time + little or no work should = little pay. Should doesn't count if your "Contract" specifies a certain pay arrangement if you jump ship. If your attorney didn't address this pay issue, shame on her and/or her firm.

Exactly how long and how involved was she in your appeal? Civil courts, I don't really know about the VA, usually make it very difficult to break an enforceable legal contract. You had to jump through some hoops to terminate her legal representation. Was there anything stipulated by either party regarding pay for work preformed on your behalf? I would think a VA Appeals attorney would charge anywhere from $200.00 per hr plus expenses. It used to be very common in civil cases that a law firm would require an additional 5 or $10K retainer if the case had to go to trial. They CTA in case you lost. I know a couple Vets that law firms declined to Rep because the potential Retro just wasn't large enough to be what they considered worthwhile. Of course they didn't say it, usually just claimed to be over loaded with other appeals.

Semper Fi

Gastone

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  • HadIt.com Elder

You are definitely going to owe the attorney something, tho it may/could be a reduced amount. There is usually an hourly rate for their services and out-of-pocket expenses, such as copying, mailing, phone fees, paralegal work, etc.. I would contact the attorney and request documentation of all the charges, which you should have been receiving, monthly, while they were representing you. jmo

pr

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They can also get reimbursed by EAJA- the last lawyer we hired had only typed 5 letters over 2 years- I having done all of the filing for 12 years and writing Congressmen, etc... they wanted 34,000 for 5 letters- turned out they didnt file the proper papers with the VA and the second lawyer wasnt even certified- so they strongarmed us - and demanded the monies or were taking us to court and putting a lean on our house - end of story they fleeced us for 15 grand... for 5 letters....nice pay for them ...

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I think I read some where that the climates and his Rep have 30 days to agree on fee's if no agreement with in the 30 days the contract is void. time plays a major factor here!

jmo

Buck!

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Many good replies have been made on this issue.

Lotza - is right on, pr and gastone too.

Somewhere there was an original contract signed with the attorney and it

SHOULD spell out what is to be done if not completed.

Even tho for whatever reasons, your attorney did not go from start to finish

they should be paid for all that they did work on and/or accomplish.

jmho

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A local vet I helped many years ago was advised by the VA that they were withholding 8,000 bucks from his retro and i filed a NOD challenging that for him.

I used the five part test in this regulation and provided evidence and also personal testimony to prove the lawyers only represented him on one CAVC case which he lost and years later he filed another CAVC case, which he lost( he had no attorney for that)

and then finally I was asked by his vet rep to go over his claim and, long story there ,but he got an award, finally after about 1o-12 years.

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/granule/CFR-1999-title38-vol2/CFR-1999-title38-vol2-sec20-609(Attorney fee regulations)

I added my signed testimony to the NOD I prepared for him , that I apparently was the only person who had even read his initial BVA case or his entire medical file because the last BVA denial he got actually held the key evidence to his claim.,yet even his lawyer overlooked what the decision revealed.

I told him to contact me if the VA still intended to pay his lawyers (there were 2 from the same firm)

He never did. I have no idea what the outcome was.

My point is that attorney fees can be challenged,with evidence if they seem, as in this vet's case, grossly unfair.

I used as evidence for the fee NOD, one or 2 letters he received from this law firm and one of two phone calls with them, and then part of the extensive medical research I did to help win this claim....

pointing out how the lawyers (and even his vet rep) overlooked prime facie evidence ,that one single word in his BVA decision led me to prepare evidence ,that ultimately won his claim.

One of the attorneys claimed advising him during a time frame when she was on a maternity leave and not even actively working at the firm.

But the fact remained that they didn't even read his BVA decision.

There is a lot of legalize to the fee agreement regulations.

Still, if a vet firmly believes the fee is incorrect they should appeal it using the criteria in the above regulation with evidence.that shows it is wrong.

They need to check the regulations as well for any possible OGC updates to it.I used it any years ago and it could have changed a little,.

Edited by Berta (see edit history)
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You are definitely going to owe the attorney something, tho it may/could be a reduced amount. There is usually an hourly rate for their services and out-of-pocket expenses, such as copying, mailing, phone fees, paralegal work, etc.. I would contact the attorney and request documentation of all the charges, which you should have been receiving, monthly, while they were representing you. jmo

pr

This is a good recommendation.

Here's why.

A lawyer is entitled to compensation for work performed even if they withdraw or you fire them. The legal theory behind this is called "quantum meruit" - it's a western legal concept that says that you can't fire someone just to avoid paying them for the work they've done.

BUT....they have to be able to show the work that they have done.

So, if your attorney "fires" you (i.e., withdraws), or you fire your attorney, you should ALWAYS ask them at that time to document the time that they spent working on your case - not only the time, but the tasks that they performed, the work product that they created, and which employee (lawyer, paralegal, legal assistant, or other) did it.

Most contingency lawyers don't track this information. I am amazed at how few of my brother and sister lawyers don't keep records of their time spent on a case.

There are ways that they can show that they performed work without "time records", but if you ask for time records at the time of the withdrawal/termination, and they don't have them, it is always suspicious when they show up in a fee entitlement appeal.

PS...don't confuse the EAJA fees and contingency fees....EAJA Fees are ONLY available to attorneys who "substantially prevail" for their client at the CAVC. They are NOT available for attorneys that win at the VA Regional Office or the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Pick your attorney the right way - the first time - read my FREE eBook and do your homework....talk to at least 3 before hiring 1.

Here's where to get the Free eBook "8 Things Veterans Should Know Before Hiring an Attorney"

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