Concerns Over Proposed Fee Rules Are Unfounded
Stanley Lamport co-authored a letter to the editor published in the Daily Journal on June 23, 2013 about proposed Rule 1.5 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyer conduct. The letter was a response to an article that ran in the paper days earlier which suggested that because the proposed rule only applies to “unconscionable fees,” it could encourage lawyers to charge unreasonable fees.
In the letter, written with Robert Kehr who served with Lamport on the commission for the Revision of the California Rules of Professional Conduct, the authors point out that despite the claims in the earlier article, Rule 1.5 is not a new standard and is simply a continuation of a prohibition currently found in Rule 4-200. They also point out that determining what constitutes a unreasonable fee would very difficult to do, as well as a hard standard to prove.
According to Lamport and Kehr, the public is already protected from unreasonable fees through the civil court system and California's system of mandatory fee arbitration.
“Under both the current and proposed rule, the public is protected by the mandatory fee arbitration system and through discipline when there is fraud, overreaching, or other indicia of unconscionability,” Lamport and Kehr wrote. “Proposed Rule 1.5 carries on long-standing California policy, as established by our Supreme Court many years ago. We believe that the distinction between unreasonable and unconscionable fees is important and should be retained as it more directly serves the goal of public protection.”