Lien guide for the trial attorney (Part 1 of 2)

A compendium on Attorney liens for contingent fees – includes application of new ethics rules effective November 1

Michael S. Fields
2018 October

This compendium primarily concerns lien claims for attorney contingent fees. Lien claims for advanced costs are discussed in the last section.

New ethics rules applicable to attorney liens for fees and costs

Attorney ethics rules are officially entitled “California Rules of Professional Conduct” (CRPC). On May 10, 2018, the California Supreme Court officially approved 69 new and revised CRPC rules. The 112 pages of CRPC rules utilize a new numbering system. The rules go into effect on November 1, 2018.

Many of the new CRPC rules significantly impact attorney lien claims for fees and costs. The application of the new CRPC rules to attorney lien claims is explained throughout this compendium, and, where necessary, the new rules are compared to the old CRPC rules. For an understanding of disputed attorney lien rights, this writer suggests reading Carroll v. Interstate Brands Corporation (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 1168.

Statutory lien definitions

1. Civ. Code section 2872: “A lien is a charge imposed in some mode other than by a transfer in trust upon specific property by which it is made security or the performance of an act.”

2. Civ. Code section 2881 states a lien is created by contract of the parties or by operation of law.

3. Civ. Code section 2883, subd. (a), states: “An agreement may be made to create a lien upon property not yet acquired by the party agreeing to give the lien, or not yet in existence. In that case the lien agreed for attaches from the time when the party agreeing to give it acquires an interest in the thing, to the extent of such interest.”

Attorney fee sharing agreements–referring attorney’s lien claim

Pure referral fee: California is one of a few states that permit attorneys to be compensated for referring a case to another attorney, without requiring the referring attorney’s participation in case preparation or presentation. The referring attorney is not a lien claimant against the client’s recovery. Rather, a pure referral fee is a contractual right created against the second attorney and perhaps a lien claim against that recovery.

No work on the case need be done by the referring attorney to obtain a pure referral fee. The objective is to encourage referrals to more competent attorneys for a particular matter. (See Moran v. Harris (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 913, 921-922, cited by our highest court in Chambers v. Kay (2002) 29 Cal.4th 142, 149, 156-157.)

California bar ethics rules allow pure referral fees: Pure referral fee sharing is controlled by bar ethics rules. Former CRPC rule 2-200(A), is entitled “Financial Arrangements Among Lawyers.” Subdivision (A) provided:

A member shall not divide a fee for legal services with a lawyer who is not a partner of, associate of, or shareholder with the member unless:

(1) The client has consented in writing thereto after a full disclosure has been made in writing that a division of fees will be made and the terms of such division; and

(2) The total fee charged by all lawyers is not increased solely by reason of the provision for division of fees and is not unconscionable as that term is defined in rule 4-200.

The requirement that the client consent in writing to the division of fees allows for the client to be assured the fee percentage charged is reasonable and the attorney representing the client’s case will be adequately compensated for competent representation. (Chambers, supra.)

In Mink v. Maccabee (2004) 121 Cal.App.4th 835, a referring attorney claiming breach of a pure referral fee agreement was allowed to bring a breach of contract action against the second attorney who performed the work. The court cited compliance with former CRPC rule 2-200(A), even though the two attorneys did not enter into a written contract and the client’s written informed consent was not obtained until conclusion of the client’s case. Former CRPC rule 2-200(A) did not require a written agreement between the attorneys, nor did it require a time limit to obtain the client’s written approval of the fee split.

New bar ethics rule affecting pure referral fees: New CRPC rule 1.5.1, is entitled “Fee Divisions Among Lawyers.” It has strict compliance requirements, but the new rule continues to allow pure referral fees. It, however, severely modifies former CRPC rule 2-200(A).

New CRPC rule 1.5.1 states:

(a)  Lawyers who are not in the same law firm shall not divide a fee for legal services unless:

(1) the lawyers enter into a written agreement to divide the fee;

(2) the client has consented in writing, either at the time the lawyers enter into the agreement to divide the fee or as soon thereafter as reasonably practicable, after a full written disclosure to the client of:                            

(i)  the fact that a division of fees will be made;

(ii) the identity of the lawyers or law firms that are parties to the division; and

(iii) the terms of the division; and

(3) the total fee charged by all lawyers is not increased solely by reason of the agreement to divide fees.

(b) This rule does not apply to a division of fees pursuant to court order.

The comment to new rule 1.5.1 states: “The writing requirements of paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) may be satisfied by one or more writings.”              

Violation of rule 1.5.1 may bring disciplinary action by State Bar: The “Executive Summary” that accompanied new rule 1.5.1, when it was a “proposed” rule, states that rule 1.5.1 would establish a disciplinary standard. That disciplinary standard is set forth in new CRPC Rule 8.4, entitled “Misconduct.” New rule 8.4 states in part: “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to: (a) violate these rules or the State Bar Act . . ..”

In Mark v. Spencer (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 219, 226, fn. 4, the court acknowledged that former CRPC rule 2-200 does not specify any penalty for its violation, but under the California Rules of Professional Conduct, violation of the rule can subject an attorney to State Bar disciplinary action (presumably for failing to obtain client consent before fee-splitting.)

Referring attorney can receive a monetary gift for a case referral without complying with rule 1.5.1: Prior CRPC rule 2-200(B) allowed a referring lawyer to receive a “gift or gratuity” for making a recommendation to another lawyer “provided the gift or gratuity was not offered in consideration of any promise, agreement, or understanding that such a gift or gratuity would be forthcoming or that referral would be made or encouraged in the future.

New CRPC rule 7.2(b)(5) has a similar provision. It states:

[A] lawyer may . . . offer or give a gift or gratuity to a person or entity having made a recommendation resulting in the employment of the lawyer or the lawyer’s law firm, provided that the gift or gratuity was not offered or given in consideration of any promise, agreement, or understanding that such a gift or gratuity would be forthcoming or that referrals would be made or encouraged in the future.

Note that a “gift or gratuity” is not a fee split that would fall under CRPC rule 1.5.1. Thus, most likely, there is no contractual recovery or lien claim by the referring attorney.

New CRPC rule 7.2(b)(4) allows for reciprocal referral arrangements that are not exclusive, so long as the client is informed of the existence and nature of the arrangement. Such a reciprocal referral arrangement does not comport with the fee split requirements of new CRPC rule 1.5.1. Most likely, therefore, such arrangement does not have a contractual component or lien right without the performance of work on the referred case by the referring attorney.

Complying with new CRPC rule 1.5.1 most likely allows the referring attorney to enforce breach-of-contract and lien rights claims for a pure referral fee: Under prior CRPC rule 2-200(A), courts recognized that compliance with that rule created a contractual right between the referring attorney and the client’s retained attorney.

Compliance with former CRPC rule 2-200(A) did not require the fee-split agreement between attorneys to be in writing. The only writing required was a knowing consent by the client to the identifiable attorney’s fee split. That consent could be obtained at any time, even after representation of the client. Thus, under former CRPC rule 2-200 an oral agreement between attorneys to share fees was ethical, contractual and enforceable if the client properly consented in writing. (Mink, 121 Cal.App.4th 835.)

Margolin v. Shemaria (2000) 85 Cal.App.4th 891, 903, involves a pure referral fee. The client orally agreed to the fee split. An oral consent was held not in compliance with the written consent requirement of former CRPC rule 2-200 (A), and such noncompliance “rendered the fee sharing agreement [contractually] unenforceable.” The court upheld the trial court finding that “. . . plaintiffs do not have a viable contract [with defendant] for fee sharing because the contract does not comply with rule 2-200 . . ., which prohibits such sharing of fees unless certain specified conditions are met.” [Italics in original.] (Id. at p. 894.)

Under new CRPC rule 1.5.1., a pure referral fee agreement is most likely contractually enforceable if the six basic requirements of new rule 1.5.1 are met:

(i) the fee split agreement between the lawyers is in writing;

(ii) identity of the lawyers is set out in the written agreement;

(iii) terms of the fee split division are set out in the written agreement;

(iv) the client consents in writing to the prospective fee split either on the written agreement executed by the lawyers or on a separate writing with the terms of the fee split and identification of the lawyers set out;

(v) all of the requirements must be met early-on in the referral process; and

(vi) the gross fee charged by all lawyers is not increased solely by reason of the fee split agreement.

For attorney lien rights, see Carroll v. Interstate Brands Corporation (2002) 99 Cal.App.4th 1168. Carroll is a commonly cited case requiring privity of contract between the claiming lawyer and the client. Carroll further holds a pure referral fee contract should be found to exist if the lawyers follow the requirements of new CRPC rule 1.5.1.

It seems unlikely that a referring lawyer seeking enforcement of a pure referral fee needs to file a declaratory relief action against the client to establish the referring lawyer’s lien claim amount, as required in Mojtahedi v. Vargas (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 974. Mojtahedi, concerns a non-pure referral fee case. A declaratory relieve action was required in Mojtahedi to establish the validity and value of complaining attorney’s lien claim. In a pure fee referral matter that fully comports with new CRPC rule 1.5.1, the amount of the referring lawyer’s lien claim is predetermined by written agreement.

Client’s consent in writing to a pure fee split is mandatory

Failing to obtain a written consent by the client to a fee split has been the subject of great consternation and litigation by attorneys who are not paid in accordance with the fee split agreement. To that end, the California Supreme Court has ruled on this issue three times, as follows:

a. Chambers v. Kay (2002) 29 Cal.4th 142, 150, holds a non-retained attorney (Chambers), assisting a retained attorney (Kay), may not recover a contracted percentage fee split or a quantum meruit fee against case recovery. Neither attorney obtained the client’s informed written consent to the pure referral fee split, as required by former CRPC rule 2-200(A)

Chambers applies former CRPC rule 2-200(A) beyond a pure referral fee dispute. It holds the rule also requires a client’s informed written consent to a fee split, where work for the client is divided between attorneys. The Court, however, allowed a quantum meruit claim by Chambers against the first attorney, Kay.

b. Huskinson & Brown v. Wolf (2004) 32 Cal.4th 453, 456, allowed the first attorney to recover quantum meruit fees for work performed, but not the contracted percentage agreed to between the attorneys. Percentage fee recovery can only be obtained if the attorneys comply with former CRPC rule 2-200(A) and obtain the client’s informed written consent to the percentage fee split. “[R]ule 2-200 does not preclude quantum meruit recovery when its client disclosure and consent requirements are not met . . .”

Huskinson further states: “Notably . . . rule 2-200 does not purport to restrict attorney compensation on any basis other than a division of fees. Nor does it suggest that attorneys or law firms are categorically barred from making or accepting client referrals, from agreeing to a division of labor on a client’s case, or from actually working on a case where labor is divided.” (Id. at p. 458.)

c. Fletcher v. Davis (2004) 33 Cal.4th 61, 64, holds that an oral contingent hourly fee agreement is a charging lien that creates an adverse interest on the client’s property rights and thereby violates former CRPC rule 3-300 [now rule 1.8.1]. Such a lien, to be enforceable, requires a client’s informed written consent. This rule, however, has no application to a charging lien that secures payment of a contingent fee. (See Plummer v. Day/Eisenberg (2010) 184 Cal.App.4th 38.)

In both Chambers and Huskinson, the client did not consent to the attorneys’ contractual fee split, and the court found an attorney seeking quantum meruit fees can only recover such fee calculation from the retained attorney.

Equitable estoppel may prevent retained attorney from denying pure referral split

In a pure referral fee case involving a class action, the retained attorney was equitably estopped from denying a fee split agreement with referring attorney. After new class representatives were brought into class, retained class-action attorney failed to obtain new class member consents to fee-split, as then required under former CRPC rule 2-200, refused to allow referring attorney to obtain class clients consent to referral fee split, and failed to disclose to court fee-splitting agreement with referring attorney, as then required under former CRPC 3.769.

In Barnes, Crosby, Fitzgerald & Zeman, LLP v. Ringler et al (2012) 212 Cal.App.4th 172, the court held that under the former rule,

[A]n attorney may be equitably estopped from claiming a fee-sharing contract is unenforceable due to noncompliance with [former] rule 2-200 or [former] rule 3.769, where attorney is responsible for such noncompliance and has unfairly prevented another lawyer from complying with the rules’ mandates. [Brackets added.]

Client must be in privity of contract to be liable to non-retained attorney

A client is not liable for fees to any attorney with whom the client is not in privity of contract. In Strong v. Beydoun (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 1398, the first attorney retained attorney Strong to assist with the case. The first attorney and Strong had a fee sharing agreement that was not signed by the client, nor did the client in anyway agree to a contract with Strong. Strong sued client and first attorney for quantum meruit. Court held no contractual agreement with client; client is not obligated to Strong on any of the stated counts; and Strong’s only claim was against the first attorney for provable quantum merit fees.

Retained attorney’s contingent fee lien claim against case proceeds

Charging lien: A retained attorney’s lien for fees and costs against a client’s interest is a “charging lien.” In California, a charging lien can only be imposed if the client has executed an informed written retainer consent to fee division, after written disclosure of its terms; i.e., the creation of a written contract. A charging lien is typically found to be created in contingent fee retainer contracts for personal injury matters. A charging lien can be claimed in certain probate matters involving contingency recoveries for the estate. In such matters, the probate court is required to order payment of the contingency directly to the successful attorney, and the attorney is not required to file a creditor’s claim. (See Novak v. Fay (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 329.)

Statutory contractual retainer fee requirements can be found in Business and Professions Code sections 6146 (med-mal fee), 6147 (tort contingent fee) and 6148 (hourly fee). State Bar ethic rules also have requirements for contingent and hourly fee contract terms. (See new CRPC rule 1.5 and former CRPC rule 4-200(A).)

Hourly fee retainer contracts require adherence to new CRPC rules 1.5 and 1.8.1 [former CRPC rules 4-200 and 3-300]. New rule 1.8.1 has restrictions for lawyers who have business dealings with clients. (See Fletcher v. Davis (2004) 33 Cal.4th 61, 71 for application of former CRPC rule 3-300.) “A charging lien is . . . an adverse interest within the meaning of CRPC rule 3-300 and thus requires the client’s informed written consent.” Fletcher refused to enforce an oral contingent hourly fee agreement. (Id. at p. 64.)

The Fletcher court held that without a client’s written informed consent to an hourly contingent fee agreement, an adverse interest in the client’s property is created and former CRPC rule 3-300 is violated. A percentage contingent fee contractual retainer, however, is not held to fall under the requirements of former CRPC rule 3-300. (Plummer v. Day/Eisenberg (2010) 184 Cal.App.4th 38, 49.)

A charging lien is typically a “secret lien,” in that it is contractual and typically not publicized. A non-secret lien is typically one that is filed with some government body, such as a real estate lien filed with a county recorder.

Written contract required: Unlike other states, where an attorney’s lien for fees and costs can be created by operation of law, California requires a written contract between the attorney and client. California does recognize certain liens, such as mechanics liens and service liens, are created by operation of law. (Fletcher, supra, at p. 61-62.) An attorney lien on a judgment is not automatic, but it may be created by contract. (Del Conte Masonry Co. v. Lewis (1971) 16 Cal.App.3d 678, 680.)

Centenko v. United California Bank (1982) 30 Cal.3rd 528, 531, holds an attorney fee contract is usually an express provision in a retainer contract, but “it may be implied if the retainer agreement between the lawyer and client indicates that the former is to look to the judgment for payment of his fee.” Centenko notes that a charging lien can secure either an hourly or contingent fee. (Id. at pp. 531-532.)

Attorney lien claimant must be privity of contract with client: Associate attorney employed by law firm that contracts with a client has no lien claim on the recovery, even though the employing attorney and the associate attorney have a mutual contract granting the associate a percentage of the recovery. (Trimble v. Steinfeldt (1986) 178 Cal.App.3d 646; see also Carroll, 99 Cal.App.4th 1168, which is a commonly cited case requiring privity of contract between the claiming attorney and client.)

In Carroll, a lawyer in the plaintiff attorney’s office sought a lien for fees owed by his attorney employer for work on the underlying plaintiff’s case. The claiming lawyer was not in contract with the client and had no enforceable lien rights. The Carroll case provides an explanation of attorney lien claims and is a good source of information on the issue.

Where an associate attorney was named in the retention contract executed by the client and contracting attorney, the associate attorney was held to be in contract privity with the client. The contract also supported a conversion cause of action against a subsequently retained attorney. (See Plummer, 184 Cal.App.4th 38, 48.) In Plummer, attorney Plummer was a named payee on the settlement check, yet the subsequent attorney deposited the check in its client trust account without Plummer’s endorsement and failed to distribute any portion of the attorney fee to Plummer.

Attorney lien claimant is an equitable assignee

“While a contingent fee contract with creation of a lien in favor of counsel does not operate to transfer to counsel any part of the client’s cause of action, it does give him a lien upon the recovery, and the attorney is regarded as an equitable assignee of the judgment or settlement to the extent of fees and costs which are due him for services.” [Citations omitted.]. (Siciliano v. Fireman’s Fund Ins. Co. (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d 745, 752.) This old rule most probably assures that an attorney representing a plaintiff will have the attorney’s name placed on a settlement check issued by the tortfeasor’s insurance carrier. The attorney’s lien rights are protected, however, even if a lien notice is not served on the opposing party or insurance company.

Lien right is best to be specified in retainer contract

Although some cases hold an attorney’s lien for fees and costs may be implied by the general language of a retainer contract (Gelfand, Greer, Popko & Miller v. Shivener (1993) 30 Cal.App.3d 364, 371), it is best to explicitly specify an attorney’s lien rights within the retainer contract.

Former attorney’s quantum meruit lien claim

Where an attorney is discharged, justifiably withdraws from representing a client or where the contingency contract is voidable due to the failure of including all the provisions listed under Business and Professions Code section 6147(a), the discharged attorney is entitled to a quantum meruit recovery. Many times in such matters disputes arise between a first and second attorney as to the amount each is legally entitled to receive from a client’s recovery. (See Weiss v. Marcus (1975) 51 Cal.App.3d 590, 598.)

Quantum meruit defined

Quantum meruit is a legal principle that implies a promise to pay for services that were not gratuitously put forth. The burden is on the party seeking compensation to prove value of services rendered and that the services were provided at the request of the party to be charged. “To recover in quantum meurit, a party need not prove the existence of a contract [citations], but it must show the circumstances were such that ‘the services were rendered under some understanding or expectation of both parties that compensation therefore was to be made.”’ (Strong, 166 Cal.App.4th 1398, 1404.)

Establishing quantum meruit rights of competing attorneys

A lien for fees is to be established on a quantum meruit reasonable value basis. Fracasse v. Brent (1972) 6 Cal.3d 784, is the seminal case recognizing that a contingent fee attorney discharged prior to recovery of an award or settlement may recover the reasonable value of services rendered up to the time of discharge.

“An attorney’s contingent fee contract does not operate to transfer part of the cause of action to the attorney but only gives him a lien on his client’s recovery. . . . Compensation must be sought in an independent action by the attorney against the client, and not by application to the court in which litigation is pending.” [Citations omitted.] This holding is the basic rule requiring a dismissed attorney to file a separate action for quantum meruit fees against his/her former client, and it does not permit the attorney to intervene in the underlying case for a fee claim. (Hendricks v. Superior Court (Sefton) (1961) 197 Cal.App.2d 586, 589.)

But, see Law Offices of Stanley J. Bell v. Shine, et al., (1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 1011, where attorney allowed trial judge in underlying case to rule on an attorney lien claim. In a separate action to collect on the lien claim, the court estopped collection as being barred by res judicata due to the underlying case judgement.

Second attorney liability

In Olsen v. Harbison (2010) 191 Cal.App.4th 325, the court found no viable right by the first attorney against the second attorney for quantum meruit, fraud and deceit, interference with contractual relations, breach of contract, unjust enrichment or constructive trust – the entire burden for the first attorney’s fee is upon the client who agreed to the fee split and then fired the first attorney.

A contrary holding can be found in Plummer, 184 Cal.App.4th 38, where the court allowed causes of action for conversion and intentional interference with prospective economic damages against the second attorney. The second attorney deposited the settlement check with Plummer’s name as payee, not obtaining Plummer’s signature on the check and not paying Plummer any portion of the fee.

Separate action against client required before second attorney can be sued

The cases are clear that a court in an underlying case, where a first lawyer seeks to assert a lien claim for fees, has no power to determine the amount of the lien nor to order payment of the lien to the complaining attorney. That determination is a separate action by the first lawyer against the former client, and the former client can assert defenses to the dismissed attorney’s lien claim. (Bandy v. Mt. Diablo Unified School District (1976) 56 Cal.App.3d 230 and Valenta v. Regents of University of California (1991) 231 Cal. App.3d 1465.)

Unless there is privity of contract with a second attorney regarding attorney-fee sharing, an action to recover attorney fees in a separate action for breach of contract (and probably any action) by a dismissed attorney must be brought only against the client with whom the complaining attorney had a contract for attorney services. (See Brown v. Superior Court (Cyclone) (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 320, 328-330, where the attorney sought lien priority over a judgement creditor’s lien.) Brown is widely cited as authority in contingent fee lien claim cases. (But see Weiss, 51 Cal.App.3d 590, 598, where the court recognized a direct lawsuit by the discharged attorney against the client’s newly retained attorney.)

Declaratory relief action against client is first step

“. . . Compensation must be sought in an independent action by a complaining attorney against the client, and not by application to the court in which the underlying litigation is pending.” (Hendricks v. Superior Court (Sefton) (1961) 197 Cal.App.2d 586, 589, which is widely cited as the basic rule requiring a dismissed attorney to file a separate action against the client to establish quantum meruit fees. It does not permit the dismissed attorney to intervene in the underlying case for his or her fee claim. [Citations omitted.])

A significant ruling holds that before a first attorney can claim a lien and sue a second attorney for a portion of fees obtained on a contingency recovery, an action for declaratory relief must be brought against the client to determine the lien’s validity, value and enforceability. (See, Mojtahedi, 228 Cal.App.4th 974, were the dismissed attorney wrongly brought an action against the second attorney to recover quantum meruit fees instead of against the former client; But see Southern California Gas Co. v. Flannery (2016) 5 Cal.App.5th 476, 496, where tortfeasor interplead settlement funds and both client and former attorney were named parties; held former attorney’s response to interpleader action with motion for attorney fees was adequate for court to determine validity and value of former attorney’s lien claim.)

Declaratory relief actions are allowed under Code of Civil Procedure section 1060 et seq. for “an actual controversy” to seek a judicial declaration of rights and duties before there is any breach of an obligation regarding the declaration sought. The declaratory relief can operate prospectively in the interests of prospective justice and to establish rights. (See Parsons v. Tickner (1995) 31 Cal.App.4th 1531, 1533, holding that a declaratory relief action can depend on the outcome of a pending action.) Note that a declaratory relief action is entitled to trial setting priority, but a declaratory relief action combined breach of contract action is not granted the priority. The breach action is to be conducted at a later time. (Code Civ. Proc., § 1062.3)

Discharged attorney’s rights after declaratory relief action is second step

Mojtahedi, supra, states: “[T]he [discharged] attorney’s lien is only enforceable after the attorney adjudicates the value and validity of the lien in a separate action against his client” * * * “Plaintiff provided the services to the clients, not to Defendant [second attorney] . . . Plaintiff must thus litigate with the clients to determine the reasonable cost of the services provided to them.”

Mojtahedi explains that a declaratory relief action against the former client is recognized as a procedure to establish a dismissed attorney’s lien claim and cited Brown v. Superior Court (Cyclon),116 Cal.App.4th 320, 328-330. Mojtahedi was not clear whether the new second attorney and a paying insurance company or defendant in the underlying case can be a party defendant in the declaratory relief action. The court hinted that an action against the second attorney may be appropriate after the establishment of the “existence, amount, and enforceability of his lien on the settlement money.” “If successful in a declaratory relief action regarding the reasonable value of his services, Plaintiff’s fees will be paid out of the clients’ settlement proceeds.” (Id. at p. 978.) But see Southern California Gas Co. v. Flannery (2016) 5 Cal.App.5th 476, 496, where tortfeasor interplead settlement funds and both client and former attorney were named parties; held former attorney’s response to interpleader action with motion for attorney fees was adequate for court to determine validity and value of former attorney’s lien claim.

Mandatory fee arbitration correlation

Be aware that any action against a client or former client for a fee dispute must comply with California’s Mandatory Fee Arbitration Act (MFAA), set forth in Business and Professions Code section 6200 et seq. A must reading of an attorney’s travail and loss after successfully winning an MFAA arbitration award is Loeb v. Record (Bardat & Edwards) (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 431. (See also Mardirossian & Associates v. Ersoff (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 257, fn.3; see also Formal Opinion No. 2009-177 of the State Bar Standing Committee of Professional Responsibility and Conduct for suggestions on how to correlate with the MFAA.)

Part II continues here.

Michael S. Fields Michael S. Fields

Michael Fields has lectured and written on arbitration law and procedures for over 25 years. He retired from the active practice of law after a 47-year career as a plaintiff’s personal injury trial attorney. He remains a licensed member of the California State Bar. Mr. Fields was the 2003 CAALA president, and he was the 2015 recipient of CAALA’s Ted Horn Memorial Award for his many contributions to the profession.He can be contacted at

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