Mark Kimball and Dennis Kasimov recently obtained a substantial victory representing a prominent international Manhattan, New York-based law firm in a fee agreement enforcement action. The N.Y. law firm had executed two retainer agreements, one an hourly fee arrangement and the other on contingent basis, with now-former clients for representation in a Ninth Circuit Court appeal and, subsequently, on remand to the Federal District Court. Represented by the N.Y. law firm, the former clients prevailed on their Ninth Circuit Appeal and, later, entered a favorable settlement of the underlying District Court litigation. Following settlement, the N.Y. law firm spent significant time enforcing the settlement terms and preparing the settlement real estate assets for sale and disbursement of proceeds. After hundreds of hours spent on the matter, the former clients refused to pay the N.Y. law firm who retained MDK Law to enforce the retainer agreements. The former clients were residents of France and Switzerland; litigation involved multinational logistic issues, including transnational depositions and choice of law under U.S. and E.U. heuristics.
This action was not a regular contract collection action. It involved two unique attorney retainer agreements, one of which was a Fifty Percent (50%) contingency arrangement. Additionally, the former clients made allegations of malpractice and breach of fiduciary duties against the N.Y. law firm, despite their victory on appeal and ultimate settlement of the underlying lawsuit. Accordingly, the fee reasonability analysis required a response to these baseless allegations creating a “lawsuit-within-a-lawsuit” scenario. Mark and Dennis had to thoroughly review and study the four years of prior litigation leading to this fee dispute. The New York law firm’s former clients were not residents of the U.S. and were also represented by counsel in Europe, as well as their domestic counsel in Washington State.
Following written correspondences regarding nonpayment in breach of the retainer agreements, the parties agreed to submit the issue to private arbitration pursuant to the retainer agreements. The arbitration timeline was approximately four months. Arbitration involved numerous non-dispositive motions, dispositive summary judgment motions, substantial discovery, and travel.
In the end, the Manhattan law firm, represented by MDK Law, was awarded 100% of the payment due under both retainer agreements and 100% of its attorneys’ fees and costs expended in collecting payment. The total award exceeded $1.6 million. Following a motion to enforce the award in federal district court, the opposing parties finally stipulated to disbursement of the amount awarded in arbitration.
Mark Kimball has represented international business clients and international law firms successfully many times throughout his career. He finds this victory to be particularly rewarding because of the unique and complex issues presented by this case, including real estate and tax law, ethics and malpractice issues, and cross-border transactions.
Dennis Kasimov has been working closely with Mark in the firm’s transnational litigation and transactional practice.