Family Finds $250,000 Fee Check After Suicide Of Lawyer and Sends It To Firm . . . Firm Notifies Family It Will Keep All The Money Due To The “Voluntary Termination” By Lawyer

b99210892z-1.1_20140223220602_000_gm64vquu.1-1Styles & Pumpian, a Wisconsin law firm, appears eager to replace the fictional Dewey, Cheatem & Howe as a stereotype of lawyers. The family of Ira Bordow, 54, (left) was struggling to deal with his suicide when they found a check for $250,000 from a settlement with West Bend Mutual Insurance. Some $41,666 of that money was Bordow’s as part of a one-third contingency fee shared with his firm. The family sent the check to the firm expecting that it would do the right thing and send the estate Bordow’s share. However, Edward Styles of the Styles firm wrote his brother to say that they decided to keep it all because Bordow had “terminated his relationship with us regarding this action without notice and without cause.” The firm has forced the grieving family to go to court to get it to relinquish the money.

The settlement came in a crash case where Jean and Edwin Thaves were killed while sitting in their stopped car at a traffic light. Kelly Duke was driving a stolen car and lost control — going airborne and then crashing through the rook of the couple’s car. Duke went away for 30 years. There was an initial settlement of $100,000 to the couple. The second check for $250,000 was made out to both Bordow and the firm. It was found in Bordow’s car by his brother David Bordow. The brother did the right thing and sent it to the firm for safekeeping and fair division.

Styles wrote the family that one of the grounds for his keeping his former partner’s money is that “the withdrawal (from the fee agreement) acts as a breach of contract and the attorney creating the breach is entitled to no fees whatsoever.” Obviously, there are two issues here. One is a matter of simple morality and decency that seems to have escaped Styles. With a dead partner and a grieving family, most human beings would struggle to get as much money as possible to the family to help out — as opposed to looking at the suicide as an opportunity like manna from heaven.

Second, I do not buy the argument that a death constitutes a withdrawal, even a suicide. Various bars have made clear that estates can collect on contingency arrangements after a death. See Lewsader v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 296 Ill.App.3d 169, 694 N.E.2d 191 (1998)(recovery of lawyer’s fees is not barred by the death of the lawyer).

A hearing is scheduled for March and most lawyers would be deeply ashamed to argue a claim to money owed a grieving family, but then again the Styles law firm appears to be a breed apart. To put it simply, the firm may have Styles but no class.

Source: Journal Sentinel

17 thoughts on “Family Finds $250,000 Fee Check After Suicide Of Lawyer and Sends It To Firm . . . Firm Notifies Family It Will Keep All The Money Due To The “Voluntary Termination” By Lawyer”

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  2. The firm loses, both the money and its reputation. The decedent had fully performed the services for which the fees were to be paid and had generated the fund from which his share was to be disbursed. I suspect that in their avarice, they assumed that the widow would not contest their determination.

  3. I don’t know how law firms divey up the spoils but wasn’t the money earned before his death?

  4. Do your research, the Bar Association has almost completely ruined our country. Why do you think that our forefathers said no people with titles, an attorney has a title. Abolish the Bar Association – they have no purpose for America.

  5. Here again is the lawyer distancing him or her self from the very humanity they are supposed to be upholding. Disbarment is the only response to this scum.

  6. Styles, but no class. Well phrased. I am well familiar with the tragic loss of the Thaves couple. They were killed by a senseless, reckless young man who now has several decades to ponder his life.

  7. This is one of the many reasons why Milwaukee is on the list of “the most exciting cities” in the US. I understand people wanting to analyze this legally. How about IT’S JUST REPREHENSIBLE AND WRONG.

  8. This is one of the many reasons why Milwaukee is on the list of “the most exciting cities” in the US.

  9. They are wrong on the law and devoid of compassion and good judgement. Karma is waiting for them on the court house steps.

  10. I’m not buying the firm’s argument that the deceased broke the contract. I don’t see any evidence that the state of dying was such that the person expressly intended to breach the contract by dying. What is this a kind of abandonment?

    I wonder if the estate can argue force majeure and there was a delay in settling the account via probate, therefore no breach.

    On another note I have to agree with Veronica’s take on this. Pretty heartless on behalf of the law firm.

  11. Chances are the firm is starved for cash and doesn’t care about their image. The $41,666 has already been spent and bankruptcy is pending. Once the bar association gets involved, more than one lawyer will be committing suicide. And don’t be so quick to assume that Styles is a breed apart. I’d say they constitute a minority, but are not so atypical.

  12. yep – put this all over their local newspaper and make them seriously regret this decision !! Some people just cannot resist the temptation of a lump of money – this is the schoolboy that sees a dollar bill drop from an old person’s hands, then picks it up and puts it in his own pocket !!! Scum !!

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