Judge Flags Celebrity Divorce Firm For Excessive Fees
April 12, 2019
A law firm known for representing wealthy clients in divorce proceedings was chastised for excessive fees, in a high-profile case in Chicago. In its representation of Cancer Treatment Centers of America founder and investment banker Richard Stephenson, the law firm Grund & Leavitt had made an agreement with Stephenson for a nearly $10 million bonus beyond its hourly fees, to cover “time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, the skills requisite to perform the legal services properly,” reports the Chicago Tribune. The law firm’s founding partner David Grund is director of the family law program at Chicago-Kent College of Law and author of a widely used family law textbook. Following what the Tribune calls “one of the more acrimonious, lengthy and expensive divorce cases in Chicago-area history,” Alicia Stephenson was to receive about $6.5 million plus $55,000 per month “maintenance.” She appealed, seeking $400,000 a month. Stephenson fired the law firm, and the firm filed a lawsuit seeking the bonus. The judge referred the case to Illinois’s lawyer disciplinary commission as a potential violation of Illinois Supreme Court Rule of Professional Conduct 1.5(a), which forbids “an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses,” as well as contingent fees in domestic relations matters.
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