Sunday, April 14, 2013

Birbrower, Montalbano, Condon & Frank, P.C. v. Superior Court case brief

Birbrower, Montalbano, Condon & Frank, P.C. v. Superior Court case brief summary
17 Cal. 4th 119, 949 P.2d 1, 70 Cal. Rptr. 2d 304 (1998)

A law firm appealed the Court of Appeals of California that had affirmed the trial court.
The trial court granted summary judgement which was in favor of the client in a legal malpractice action.
The court of appeals also held that the California Business & Professional Code §6125 barred the petitioner from recovering all the legal fees under the fee agreement.

A law firm executed a written fee agreement with an out of state client.
While the firm was representing the client, the attorneys traveled to and gave legal advice in California.
None of the attorneys were licensed to practice law in California.
The client filed suit against the firm, alleging malpractice.

The trial court granted partial summary judgement in favor of the client.
The firm filed for a writ of mandate in the court of appeals to direct the trial court to vacate the summary judgment order.
The court of appeals denied the petition and affirmed the trial court's order.
The court held that California Business & Professional Code §6125 barred the firm from recouping all the legal feels that were under the agreement.
The firm appealed, stating that the rule did not apply and the fee agreement was not completely unenforceable.

The court affirmed in part because petitioner violated §6125 by practicing law in California.  The firm was not entitled to recover legal fees for those illegal services.

The court revered in part, holding that the firm was entitled to recover for legal services that were rendered outside of the state of California only to the extent that the legal services were severable from the illegal services.

OUTCOME:  The court affirmed in part (firm violated prohibitions against unauthorized practice of law) and reversed in part (firm was not barred from recovering legal fees on all services rendered, only those services rendered in California).

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