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A Better Partnership
June 19, 2013

COA holds that an unambiguous hybrid attorney fee structure should be enforced even after termination of the attorney

In Island Lake Arbors Condo Ass'n v. Meisner & Assoc PC, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a retainer agreement between a law firm and its client was not ambiguous, and the client owes the firm an amount to be determined on remand. The parties agreed to a hybrid fee structure under which the client agreed to pay the firm both a discounted hourly rate and a portion of its ultimate recovery. The client terminated the firm and hired new counsel, who ultimately settled the case for an undisclosed amount. The court held that the client would be unjustly enriched if it was not required to pay some of the contingency fee portion of the lawyer's compensation, but the amount should not exceed the percentage of the recovery that the parties initially agreed upon.

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