“Non-refundable” Fees Not Allowed In Attorney Contracts

May 1, 2007

The following is from D. Todd Smith’s blog TEXAS APPELLATE LAW BLOG: 

In Cluck v. Commission for Lawyer Discipline, the Third Court of Appeals has affirmed a summary judgment disciplining a lawyer who deposited $20,000 from a client into his operating account rather than his trust account. The fee agreement described the money as “a nonrefundable retainer” against which the lawyer would bill at his hourly rate.

Lawyers considering charging their clients “nonrefundable” fees should study this case closely to appreciate the difference between what the Court calls a “true retainer” and a mere “advance fee.” Here, contractual language labeling the money “nonrefundable” was not enough to qualify it as a “true retainer,” which the Court defined as a payment “to secure a lawyer’s services, and remunerate him for loss of the opportunity to accept other employment” (quoting Tex. Comm. on Prof’l Ethics, Op. 431, 49 Tex. B.J. 1084 (1986)).


Texas Child Support Cases- Dealing With the Attorney General’s Office- Sanctions

December 29, 2006

The Texas Office of Attorney General of Texas (OAG) Child Support Division is a massive bureacracy and individuals caught in child support cases with them may feel powerless and unfairly treated.  But the authority and discretion of the Attorney General’s office is limited by the same rules as to private practitioners.  The Texas Family Code, the Rules of Civil Procedure, local rules of Court, etc. all apply to even them.  In fact, in one case they were held subject to sanctions and attorney fees for their abuses.  Attorney General v. Cartwright, 874 SW 2d 210 (Tex. App.–Houston [14th Dist.] 1994, writ denied).