The Lima, Pennsylvania firm of Phillips Campbell & Phillips, has been sued in Ft. Worth, Texas, for legal malpractice by the Professional Association of Golf Officials. This is not the first time the firm has been in the news for actions brought against it by sports officials. The action asserts the firm represented the Association for over twenty years, but did not provide appropriate representation with respect to a recent collective bargaining agreement. The Association asserts the firm, and Mr. Campbell in particular, did not understand and advise the Association on the terms of the agreement. The Association paid the firm yearly, but was allegedly not provided with billing statements to show what services had been provided. The Association terminated their agreement with the firm at the end of 2011, and alleges the firm “set out on a warpath” to destroy their bargaining position with the PGA. The petition filed by the Association asserts the firm demanded payment for work done after it was terminated, and provided confidential information to the PGA. The association asserted claims of legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract. Mr. Campbell asserts this action is in retaliation for his filing of an action in Delaware County to collect fees from the Association.
Whatever its merits, the action again Phillips Campbell & Phillips is indicative of the old maxim that the easiest way to get sued for legal malpractice is to sue your clients for fees. At least one source has stated that at least one out of four actions to recover fees result in counterclaims of malpractice. As a result, actions to recover fees can result in increases to your professional liability premiums. While it is not always possible to avoid actions to recover fees, professional liability avoidance requires the practitioner think twice (or three times) before commencing actions for fees.