Strange Legal Bill

<p>We have been involved in swapping a ROW for some additional land with a neighbor. The neighbor needed this in order to gain access to a lot he wishes to sell. He retained a lawyer who has been handling everything. We retained a lawyer to review the proposed agreement and give us an opinion on it.</p>

<p>Towards the end of the process, our neighbor's lawyer handled the legalities surrounding modifying our two HELOCs (we don't have a conventional mortgage) to make the whole deal legal. Our stance was that we were basically doing this to accommodate our neighbor--although by doing so we avoided having him put the potential driveway down property much closer to our house--and didn't want to pay any fees to banks or other entities.</p>

<p>I was stunned yesterday to be told by my H that we had suddenly received a bill from the neighbor's lawyer for almost $3K. We never retained him, and we never made any agreement to pay any of his fees, either verbal or written. AFAIK, the subject never came up.</p>

<p>What do you think we should do?</p>

<p>
[quote]
We never retained him, and we never made any agreement to pay any of his fees, either verbal or written. AFAIK, the subject never came up.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Ask for an explanation and tell him...you had your own lawyer and never made an agreement to pay any of his costs. And ask YOUR lawyer about it....he may want to draft a letter on your behalf to this other lawyer stating that you did not retain this other firm...and did not agree to pay any of the bills you have been presented with as you had your own counsel.</p>

<p>I agree, talk to your own lawyer about this. In a transaction like this, unless you agreed to pay the other parties legal fees, or in some way asked the other lawyer for advice, they cannot send you a bill as far as I know and expect to be paid. Unless I am missing something, sounds to me like someone is pulling a fast one, either the lawyer figured he might be able to get some extra money out of you, or the neighbor told him you had agreed to pay some part of the legal costs, which is ridiculous.</p>

<p>I just re-read the original, and noted the section about adjusting the finances on your own property. The lawyer is probably arguing that in effect he was working for you when he did so, and hence sent you a bill but since this was being done for the benefit of his client and had no benefit for yourself, I can't see how he could bill you for that, especially since you didn't agree to any such service. I am not a lawyer, but I seem to recall something dimly from contract law that in a case like this, for someone to claim you owe them a fee would hinge upon under the terms of the contract you benefitting from the service; unless modifying the agreement in question gave you tangible benefits, which doesn't seem to be the case here, then I can't see that being legit either. Like I said in my other post, talk to your own lawyer.</p>

<p>Creative billing ... gotta love it. I agree with above posters ... refer the bill to your lawyer. No reason you should be paying for the neighbor's project.</p>

<p>You may contact the lawyer who sent you the bill. Is it possible your name was on the paperwork that was being processed and so the bill got sent to you accidently?</p>

<p>Perhaps you should write a letter and have your lawyer review it prior to sending, or have your lawyer write the letter.</p>

<p>Here are some points to consider, but please know that I am not a lawyer:</p>

<ol>
<li><p>Advise that you never retained him, assuming this the case.</p></li>
<li><p>This matter was done soley as an accommodation to his client (again, assuming this the case).</p></li>
<li><p>You might ask your lawyer if the other lawyer had an obligation to advise you of a conflict of interest in representing BOTH SIDES! Clearly, if there is a conflict, the lawyer for your neighbor would have sided with the neighbor, who retained him!</p></li>
<li><p>You might add that there was not an agreement or retainer with the neighbor (again, assuming this is the case).</p></li>
</ol>

<p>Consolation, since you have a lawyer handling this for you, it's best that you speak to him/her and not rely on anonymous CC non-lawyer friends to give you legal advice. :)</p>

<p>I'd send the bill to your neighbor...</p>

<p>I'd send it to my lawyer and tell him to make the bill go away....but I'd be gritting my teeth because I know my lawyer would charge me for the privilege of making it go away. Or you could try once to return the invoice with a letter telling the other lawyer you won't pay for all the reasons... and cc:your lawyer and then see if the invoice comes back before you "engage" your lawyer.</p>

<p>But looked at the other way: If I were Consolation's neighbor, and got a bill from my lawyer for modification of Consolation's HELOCs, I'm not sure I'd be OK with that either. And Consolation did incur benefit from the lawyer's work -- having the ROW farther from the house. Just sayin.</p>

<p>However, if I were Consolation, for sure I'd do this one:</p>

<p>
[quote]
Or you could try once to return the invoice with a letter telling the other lawyer you won't pay for all the reasons... and cc:your lawyer and then see if the invoice comes back before you "engage" your lawyer.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Sorry that I went from present to past tense in my point #3, but I think you can still get my point about a possible/potential conflict of interest. JMO, but heck, I am not a lawyer.</p>

<p>LasMa, you have a point, but we did not engage this lawyer to handle our banking affairs! We would have done it ourselves. Our neighbor should have cleared any charges he was incurring with his lawyer. H is concerned that this lawyer will blacken our rep in the area if we don't pay him, and H is a portfolio manager for a regional investment manager. H figures that the neighbor is resisting paying him for this phase of the project so the lawyer is trying to collect from us. As momof3 suggests, the idea of paying another lawyer to make this one go away does not set well! :)</p>

<p>From my perspective:
If your HELOCs were modified to make the whole deal legal, then the onus of payment for that is on your neighbor.</p>

<p>I don't think you should pay your attorney to send or review a letter. I'd just send a letter myself. I would CC the letter to your attorney, and tell him it's for his info only - you DON'T want him spending any time on it!</p>

<p>We occasionally get nastygrams in our line of work (engineering consultants), and that's what we do. We've never had a problem once we respond.</p>

<p>
[quote]
LasMa, you have a point, but we did not engage this lawyer to handle our banking affairs! We would have done it ourselves. Our neighbor should have cleared any charges he was incurring with his lawyer.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>No, I completely agree with you, and I didn't mean to imply it's your responsibility! It could be that the neighbor's lawyer first sent this bill to the neighbor, the neighbor balked, and the lawyer figured, Well, Let's see if Consolation will pay it. Personally, I wouldn't.</p>

<p>I would have immediately called the sending attorney upon receiving the letter. It could be in error. If not, negotiate with him a settlement verbally and then get your verbal agreement in writing. I wouldn't do it by email. Worry about all the "what ifs" after they happen.</p>

<p>Why involve your attorney and accrue charges from him?</p>

<p>I don't see him saying things about your husband as that would be a violation of confidentiality. It would make the lawyer look bad, not your husband.</p>

<p>Agree that first course of action is to pick up the phone and note that "there must be some mistake". If they dont apologize and make the bill go away, ask questions as to why they sent it to you. That way you'll have more information to include in your written response when you politely inform them you are not paying for services incurred by your neighbor. And cc your neighbor and your attorney.</p>

<p>Pay your own lawyer to get rid of the bill, then bill the other lawyer for your trouble.</p>

<p>^ We tried that once and the lawyer ignored us.</p>