The attorneys who represented the plaintiff class in a class action moved the trial court for approval of a settlement of the action; they also moved for an award of attorney fees and a division of the award among cocounsel.
The division of fees between two of the attorneys was disputed, one seeking compensation in accordance with an alleged written agreement for the division of the fees and the other contending the purported agreement was unenforceable. The trial court made an award of attorney fees and divided the fees in accordance with the alleged fee division agreement.
Appellant challenged the enforceability of that agreement and the division of the attorney fee award between himself and respondent.
The cases that invalidate contracts because they violate Rules of Professional Conduct do not mandate forfeiture of all compensation for the work the attorney performed. Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP v. J-M Manufacturing Co., Inc. (2018) 6 Cal.5th 59, 87-89. “that an attorney’s breach of a rule of professional conduct may negate an attorney’s claim for fees,” but added that effect was not automatic. Pringle v. La Chapelle (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 1000 -1006; Mardirossian & Associates, Inc. v. Ersoff (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 257 , 277-279. Courts may consider the doctrine of In Pari Delicto.
The California Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for a redetermination of the division of the attorney fee award between appellant and respondent.
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