As a natural outgrowth of Stewart A. Sutton’s representation of clients in legal malpractice cases, he has become a pioneer in the field of client advocacy.
A. LEGAL MALPRACTICE REVIEW
Stewart A. Sutton frequently reviews clients’ files to determine whether their existing or prior attorney has committed legal malpractice. He advises the client whether they should terminate their existing attorney and how the client can mitigate the damages caused by the attorney’s malpractice.
B. RETAINING A NEW ATTORNEY
Often clients are dissatisfied with their present attorney, especially if the existing attorney has committed malpractice and/or refuses to communicate with the client. Stewart A. Sutton advises clients on the implication of terminating their present attorney and can help the client retain a replacement attorney.
C. ATTORNEY FEE DISPUTES
Attorney often overcharge their clients for legal services rendered. The most common problem is that attorneys inflate their hours for performing relatively simple tasks. Stewart A. Sutton can review the invoices of attorneys to determine whether the attorney’s services were necessary and their fees were reasonable.
In personal injury cases, Stewart A. Sutton can determine whether the attorney’s contingency fee was excessive. For routine personal injury cases, such as when liability and the extent of plaintiff’s injuries are undisputed, the attorney should not charge in excess of a one-third contingency fee. A contingency fee should never be 50% or greater. A retainer agreement with an excessive contingency fee is unenforceable; and Stewart A. Sutton represents clients in resolving fee disputes with their former personal injury attorney.
D. NEGOTIATING A NEW RETAINER AGREEMENT
A client’s Retainer Agreement with an attorney is like any other contract. It can be modified with either a written or verbal agreement. Clients often want to modify their Retainer Agreements, either because the fees are too high or the attorney has not rendered legal services in a satisfactory manner. Stewart A. Sutton can be retained to assist the client in negotiating a modification of the terms of the Retainer Agreement.
E. NEGOTIATING A REDUCTION IN FEES
Stewart A. Sutton can be retained to negotiate a reduction in the fees that the client owes to his or her former attorney.
F. SECOND OPINIONS
Often clients are unsure of whether their attorneys are providing them with the proper legal advice and/or are performing legal services in a competent manner. Stewart A. Sutton can review the client’s file to address their concerns.
G. CLIENT ADVOCATE
Stewart A. Sutton acts as an advocate for the client when the client is experiencing difficulty in working with his or her present attorney. For example,
if a personal injury client may believe that his or her attorney is not devoting a sufficient amount of time to the case or the client may believe that the attorney has not adequately addressed his or her concerns. Stewart A. Sutton can be retained by the client to address these issues.
The client can also retain Stewart A. Sutton to act as a co-counsel in the pending litigation. The retention of Stewart A. Sutton as a co-counsel in a personal injury will not cause the client to incur any additional fees. Stewart A. Sutton and the existing attorney will share the contingency fee.
H. EXPERT WITNESS
Stewart A. Sutton has been qualified as an expert witness in the practice of law in Maryland. He can be retained by clients to render an expert opinion on whether an attorney has breached the standard of care in performing legal services or whether the attorney’s invoices for work performed were reasonable and necessary.
I. MARYLAND ATTORNEY GRIEVANCE COMMISSION
Stewart A. Sutton has drafted numerous complaints to the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission on behalf of clients. While the most common result is a dismissal with a warning, complaints filed by Stewart A. Sutton have resulted in disbarment as well as a conditional diversion agreement (CDA) in which the attorney’s practice is monitored by another professional.
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