Lawyer reprimanded for collecting unreasonable fee

Keywords Courts / Law Firms

A South Bend attorney was reprimanded by the Indiana Supreme Court on Friday after agreeing that she violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by collecting an unreasonable fee.

Justices issued a public reprimand for Anna D. Saar over fees assessed to a client she represented during a period in which she worked at two different law firms. According to the order adopted by the court, Saar represented a client on a contingency fee basis under an agreement that the first firm she worked with would collect fees of 35 percent of any settlement, or 45 percent plus expenses for any case resolved at trial.

Saar left that law firm in February 2017 for a new firm, and the client chose to continue to be represented by her. She told the client that her representation at the new firm would be governed by identical terms, and any attorney fees would be deducted from any settlement award.

But the reprimand says Saar “failed to explicitly contract away her liability for attorney fees owed” to her first law firm. After a mediated settlement in September 2017 awarder her client $18,000, she kept $6,300 as her fee, then negotiated a $2,000 settlement with her original firm for its fee. “This resulted in Client being charged a total attorney fee of 46% of the settlement amount instead of the contracted amount of 35%,” the order says.

Justices unanimously adopted the disciplinary commission’s statement of circumstances and conditional agreement for discipline that recommended the reprimand. The court noted Saar has no prior discipline, cooperated with the disciplinary process and refunded the $2,000 owed to the client.

Costs of the proceeding were assessed against Saar.

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