Usually it seems pretty self-explanatory that legal fees are to be charged for legal work, but Ms. Katherine M. Guste of Louisiana got herself in hot water (gumbo?) with the Supreme Court of Louisiana for charging and refusing to refund fees for non-legal work. According to the court’s opinion enforcing a two-year suspension [pdf], Ms. Guste provided legal services to prepare a power of attorney and represent her client in the matter of a hit-and-run accident. Thereafter,
[Guste] continued to provide services fro Mr. Perniciaro, including assisting him in canceling the power of attorney, taking him to the bank and running other errands with him, and packing and storing his personal and household belongings in preparation for his move from one nursing home to another.
There was no written agreement for either the legal or non-legal services, although apparently both parties agreed to the same hourly rate of $125 for both types of service. There was, however, a significant question as to his mental capacity based on the fact that the client was a victim of Huntington’s Disease, noted by the court as “a genetic brain disorder that results in the progressive loss of both cognitive functions and physical control.”
So between charging legal fees for non-legal work, having no written agreement, and not keeping an accounting of her time, it seems like Ms. Guste really made a mess of things in this situation. Generally these situations are less black and white than the court’s opinion makes it out to be, but I think we can all agree that this was not an optimal way of interacting with the client. It makes me wonder about other quasi-business transactions clients request of their lawyers, and what would be the best way to respond to such a request. Have you ever had a client request non-legal services? How did you respond?
(photo: Shutterstock: 93796168)