Lisa Bloom has struggled for the last few years with what was a carefully maintained media image. There was the dust up with her former client Kathy Griffin. She then broke from her client Harvey Weinstein in a public reversal. Then there was her public statement that she believed that Joe Biden was a rapist who continues to lie about his crime but that she would still support him. Now she is in the middle of litigation where she is accused of preventing families of four special needs children from getting settlement funds because she wanted a cut. They insist that she abandoned them and never had a fee agreement.
Bloom’s firm put liens on the four lawsuits of special needs students who sued different school districts in California alleging that the children were physically or sexually abused at school. The families are denouncing Bloom for first abandoning them and then demanding a cut of their settlement.
The families have been represented throughout their cases by Oakland-based Lawyer Micha Star Liberty. Liberty originally brought in Bloom’s firm to assist in the case but notably, Bloom never got a written fee agreement with the families. The families said Bloom left them high and dry in the middle of the litigation.
There does not appear to be a dispute over the lack of a written fee agreement. That raises a serious question under the rule governing California bar members:
Rule 1.5.1 Fee Divisions Among Lawyers (Rule Approved by the Supreme Court, Effective November 1, 2018) (a)
Lawyers who are not in the same law firm* shall not divide a fee for legal services unless:
(1) the lawyers enter into a written* agreement to divide the fee;
(2) the client has consented in writing,* either at the time the lawyers enter into the agreement to divide the fee or as soon thereafter as reasonably* practicable, after a full written* disclosure to the client of:
(i) the fact that a division of fees will be made;
(ii) the identity of the lawyers or law firms* that are parties to the division; and
(iii) the terms of the division; and
(3) the total fee charged by all lawyers is not increased solely by reason of the agreement to divide fees. (b) This rule does not apply to a division of fees pursuant to court order.
Comment The writing* requirements of paragraphs (a)(1) and (a)(2) may be satisfied by one or more writings.*
In fairness to Bloom, if she had an agreement for payment, the only effective way to force payment is to place a lien on the settlement distribution. Otherwise, you have to sue each family. Moreover, if Liberty enlisted the assistance of Bloom, there must have been some understanding of compensation. That would still leave the allegation of abandonment.
Of course, preventing special needs students and alleged abuse victims from recovering settlement funds is challenging in any case. However, to do it without meeting this requirement would seem a disaster in the making.