Lawyer's fees agreement: possibility of cancellation for economic constraint and violence - Ethics - THECHOWANIECS.COM

Lawyer’s fees agreement: possibility of cancellation for economic constraint and violence – Ethics

In the study of the vices of consent, violence is always an exception since it is positioned on the ground of the very will to contract (F. Terré, P. Simler, Y. Lequette and F. Chénedé, Civil right. The obligations12e ed., Dalloz, coll. “Precise”, 2018, p. 348, no. 308). Judgments on so-called economic violence are thus always an opportunity to learn more about the involvement of this cause of nullity of the contract, whether we are moreover faced with the old law or the law resulting from the 2016-131 of February 10, 2016. The judgment delivered by the first civil chamber of the Court of Cassation on December 9, 2021 makes it possible to examine an original question: can the lawyer, by nature of his profession, to invoke a state of economic dependence justifying the cancellation of a fee agreement when the client has drawn excessive advantage from it? The judgment, published in the new and selective “chamber letters”, certainly deserves close attention both from the point of view of the legal profession and that of the general theory of the contract.

Let us recall the facts to better pose the problem that caused the conflict between the parties, which is moreover the result of a dismissal after cassation (Civ. 2e, Oct. 25, 2018, No. 17-24.606). The employees of the same association (association A.) had seen their interests entrusted by the Unedic AGS to a determined lawyer for the follow-up of more than 900 files, within a labor tribunal framework at first instance. A letter dated 11 February 2013 from Unedic AGS proposed a lump sum of €90,000 for the appeal procedure. The lawyer’s response of February 13 was made in these terms: “the charges already generated for these files are already considerable and are straining my cash flow. At this stage, I can therefore only accept the setting of my fees at €90,000 excluding tax and advice and mediation”. Divested during the appeal, the lawyer was unable to agree with the AGS on the amount of his fees due. He therefore asks his chairman to fix…

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