The Ineffectiveness of Blame
Megan McArdle on Ethics

Beware Bisom & Cohen and Mark W. Eisenberg

Anyone intending to do business with Bisom & Cohen and/or Mark W. Eisenberg of the Eisenburg Law firm should read this opinion from the California Court of Appeals.  In Day/Eisenburg, a lawyer who brought in a case was allegedly frozen out of the case:

Mark Plummer agreed with attorneys Andrew Bisom and Isaac Cohen in March 2003 to represent the Acosta family in the underlying personal injury suit....

Bisom & Cohen allegedly forced Plummer out of the case in April 2004, after he worked on it for over a year. They took possession of the case file and prevented him from performing his agreed-upon duties. Plummer notified defense counsel in the underlying case about his lien and asked to be named a payee on any settlement check

Although the frozen lawyer had an attorney's lien on the case, Bisom & Cohen and Mark W. Eisenberg were somehow able to cash a settlement check that included the frozen lawyer's name:

In May 2006, defense counsel told Plummer the case was settling for $1 million. Plummer waited for a month to receive his attorney fees from Bisom or Cohen. Plummer then contacted defense counsel, who stated the settlement check named Plummer as a payee and had been sent to Day/Eisenberg.

If the check listed Plummer as a payee, how did it get cashed without Plummer's signature?

Second, the correspondence between Day/Eisenberg and defense counsel in the underlying case tends to show Day/Eisenberg knew about Plummer's lien on the settlement funds before defense counsel disbursed the settlement funds — and urged defense counsel to circumvent it.... Third, the evidence tends to show Day/Eisenberg may have interfered with Plummer's lien by having both Day and Eisenberg endorse the settlement check, one with an illegible scribble. This may have been wrongful if it was done with the fraudulent intent to help Bisom negotiate the settlement draft without Plummer's endorsement.

Shady stuff.  If the allegations are true, it's outrageous behavior.  Fee sharing is not something new to the plaintiff's bar.  A person who brings in a case is entitled to a portion of the fee.  In this case, there was a written fee agreement giving the frozen-out lawyer a right to half of the fees.   End of story.  Or it should have been.

How did the settlement check get cashed without the lawyer's consent?  Again, the check listed the lawyer as a payee.  Somehow the check got cashed.

There doesn't seem to be an innocent explanation - especially when you consider that the lawyer had to sue after the check was cashed!  Obviously if the check had been cashed due to a "clerical error," then the lawyers would have gladly handed over the share of fees that a "clerical error" had caused them to add to their bank accounts.