Just a few weeks ago, an upstate appeals court handed down a decision that was sure to burn the plaintiff, who, pursuant to an agreement with his former partner, claimed he was owed 50% of the proceeds from any client matters he had worked on while at the firm, only to be told that his claim was barred as a matter of law.
Putting aside the lack of empathy you may have for a fight between two lawyers, the decision raises an important question and lesson: how could this have happened? Didn't they have a contract?
Well, yes, they did, but there are some unique characteristics and ethical requirements when it comes to fee sharing in New York (as is also true in many other jurisdictions). Lawyers can only share fees with other practicing lawyers.
Unfortunately for the plaintiff in this case, immediately upon his turning over of his share of the law practice to his partner, he retired from the practice of law, so he was no longer, techincally speaking, an attorney, and therefore was ineligible to share in the fees generated from those cases.
The appellate court further stated as follows: