For Contingency Cases, Always Put It in Writing
In In re PRB Docket No. 2015.002, 2015 VT 101 (August 11, 2015), the Vermont Supreme Court adopted in its entirety, as a final order of the Court, the decision by the Professional Responsibility Board’s hearing panel that ordered admonition of an attorney for failing to reduce a contingent fee agreement to writing, in violation of VRPC 1.5(c).
Issue: What was the proper sanction for an attorney who failed to reduce a contingent fee agreement to writing, where there were several mitigating factors and one aggravating factor?
Holding: The Court adopted the PRB’s decision, which found admonition by Disciplinary Counsel to be appropriate in this case because there were several mitigating factors (the failure to reduce to writing was accidental, the client was a long-term one for whom the attorney was handling a number of matters, the attorney had no other record, there had been no complaints from the client, and the attorney self-reported the matter to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel) and only one aggravating factor (the attorney’s long experience).