Court Denies Attorney’s Fees to Law Firm Represented by “Of Counsel” Attorneys at the Firm

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The issue of recoverability of attorney’s fees under California Civil Code section 1717 has generated several recent opinions. On December 23, we reported on the unpublished decision in Nicholson v. Avina. In that case, the trial court denied an award of attorney’s fees to a lawyer who claimed he had been represented in litigation by another attorney at his firm. Since the matter at issue related to the firm’s business and there was no evidence of a true attorney-client relationship, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the denial of fees.

In a case with a similar outcome, Juknavorian v. Sands & Associates (Second Appellate District, Div. Seven), a law firm sought to recover fees pursuant to a contractual fee provision. The firm had been sued by its client for malpractice in the handling of a marital dissolution action. When the attorneys prevailed in the malpractice action, they sought fees pursuant to their retainer agreement.

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