Introduction to Lawyer Barons: What Their Contingency Fees Really Cost America
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
February 15, 2011
LAWYER BARONS: WHAT THEIR CONTINGENCY FEES REALLY COST AMERICA, Cambridge University Press, 2011
Cardozo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 322
LAWYERS BARONS: WHAT THEIR CONTINGENCY FEES REALLY COST AMERICA, is a broad and deep inquiry into how contingency fees distort our civil justice system, influence our political system and endanger democratic governance. While the public senses that lawyers manipulate the justice system to serve their own ends, few are aware of the high costs that come with contingency fees. This book sets out to change that. LAWYERS BARONS is an exposé of the corrupting influence of lawyers’ unrestrained financial incentives. Contrary to a broad academic consensus, the book argues that the financial incentives for lawyers to litigate are so inordinately high that they perversely impact our civil justice system and impose other unconscionable costs. It thus presents the intellectual architecture that underpins all tort reform efforts.
The Introduction, reproduced here along with the book's Table of Contents, sketches out the plight of a 46-year-old wife who received a $1.4 million offer to settle a claim for the death of her husband who was killed while working on a railroad track bed. She was then approached by a lawyer who signed up her and referred her to another firm. Ultimately, she accepted the initial settlement offer. When she refused to pay the substantial sum demanded by the lawyer who recruited her, he sued her in state court. The courts found in favor of the lawyer stating that it was the widow’s fault that she failed to negotiate a retainer agreement that would provide the lawyers with a percentage of the value they added to the settlement offer. Too bad for the client who lacked the sophistication to realize that she needed a lawyer to negotiate a lawyer’s fee.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 23
Keywords: contingency fee, attorney fees, regulation through litigation, rent-seeking, tort reform, class actions, tort system costsAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: March 4, 2011
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