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Attorneys’ Fees and Business, Civil and Commercial Litigation: What can be released and what cannot?

In an interesting Ruling from the IL First District Appellate Court, a panel found that it was not possible for the parties to a divorce proceeding to contractually waive the attorneys’ right to legal fees or file a fee petition.  Thus, the parties could not prevent the attorney from seeking legal fees despite the fact that they may have entered into a separate contract relating to the filing of a fee petition.

Once, an attorney files a petition seeking fees the First District Appellate Court stated a court is obligated to consider the reasonableness of the fee request.  However, this standard is something that must be applied even if, there is a party asserting an agreement relating to waiver of the claims for legal fees via a separate release by the party the attorney was representing in the lawsuit.  This is something that many employment practices attorneys are already cognizant of, and apply in their employment practices for resolving employment discrimination claims.

However, this is the First IL State Appellate Court opinion applying it in the context of a divorce proceeding or a family law matter.  Whether or not, attorneys will be able to apply this ruling or case law to seek legal fees or a fee petition in other business, corporate, consumer or commercial litigation matters remains to be seen.  Thus, attorneys and parties now, must consider the inclusion of a separate release for legal fees, or a petition for fees that is executed by a parties’ attorney or law firm.

More importantly, all parties need to consider the impact of a fee petition based on the applicable local rules or the statutory basis for a fee petition by an attorney.   Otherwise, the parties may not realize the potential liability or risk of exposure for additional monies that neither, side has allocated for during the initiation of the dispute, litigation, trial or appeal.  Most businesses and companies always consider the impact of legal fees on any matter that requires the use of lawyers to resolve the dispute.    For more go to: http://www.vrplawgroup.com, http://www.chicagotrialcounsel.com, http://www.iptrialattorney.com

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