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Since its inception, NYCLA has been at the forefront of most legal debates in the country. We have provided legal education for more than 40 years.
A woman who has been divorced from her husband for several years, desires to retain me.
Both parties are New York residents but the divorce was obtained outside the state.
In connection with the divorce, the parties entered into a written agreement that the husband was to pay a certain sum each week for the support of the children of the marriage and he was to pay to his former wife a stipulated sum each week.
There is a further provision in said agreement that the wife was to receive an additional sum each week if the husband’s earnings amounted to a stipulated sum according to a statement submitted by his accountants.
The wife showed me such a statement according to which she is entitled to an additional sum each week for the past several years.
I did not represent either party to the divorce and I did not draw the agreement. I did not know either party before I was referred to the wife.
Is it ethical for me to make an agreement for a contingent retainer on a percentage basis in the collection of the amount due to the wife and if not, what arrangement for my fee can I make with her.
Contracts for contingent fees are governed by Canon 13:
“A contract for a contingent fee, where sanctioned by law, should be reasonable under all the circumstances of the case, including the risk and uncertainty of the compensation, but should always be subject to the supervision of a Court, as to its reasonableness.
In the opinion of the Committee a contingent fee with respect to the collection of arrears in alimony that accords with the Canon, quoted above would seem to be unobjectionable. [See Opinion No, 275 (1929) of this Association.]
October 5, 1964