Volume 19, Number 7
October/November 2002


Attorneys' Fees

By Robert L. Rossi
Reviewed by Andrew C. Simpson

When I agreed to review Attorneys' Fees by Robert L. Rossi, I expected I would be reading a how-to manual on recovering fees. Although this expectation may betray more about me than I would otherwise like to admit, I found the title hides a wealth of information found inside.
Attorneys' Fees is a comprehensive analysis of every conceivable issue relating to fees. Its topics include: ethical rules relating to fees, fee agreements, fee recovery statutes and rules (federal and state), common law methods of obtaining fees from opposing parties, fee liens, fee disputes, and fee collection. I was particularly impressed with the depth of coverage devoted to each topic.
Each chapter is logically arranged and exhaustively outlined in the table of contents. Thus, by reviewing the table of contents alone, the reader can quickly pinpoint the section of the work that is most likely to provide the answer to the issue of interest. In addition, the Index is also sufficiently detailed to allow the reader to rapidly find that elusive answer.
For example, suppose you have worked hard to recover an award for an injured plaintiff and at the end of the case, a subrogated insurer seeks a portion of the recovery. Should the insurer have to bear a portion of your fee, or does it recover fee-free? The table of contents quickly points you to Chapter 7, "Allowance of Fees Out of Fund," subsection 7.20, "Insurance subrogation." And altering the search to cover either "insurance" or "subrogation" leads you to the same section.
Continuing with this example, your next step might be to write a letter to the insurer, explaining that it must pay a fee on its portion of the recovery. The text is thoroughly footnoted so that you can quickly supplement your letter with cases from around the country to support your position. (Based upon the 300-page Table of Cases, I conservatively estimate that there are more than 8,000 cases cited throughout the reference.) Depending upon your style, you can even give the insurer a mini-history lesson on the development of the doctrine and describe how it evolved from the seminal case back in 1961. Even if the insurance company is not persuaded, it will certainly believe that your client was well represented! More importantly, the research time you will save by using this efficient resource will quickly recover its $258.50 list price. The treatise is updated annually and published in two volumes consisting of four-ring binders (not hardbound as described on the West Group website). I prefer this format to hardbound because it allows each book to lay flat on my desk without the necessity of breaking the binding.
I could find only two reasons to criticize the book (other than the fact that its name is not descriptive enough to truly alert the reader as to how much information is inside). First, some of the text is a bit inconsistent with explanations provided in the footnotes. Some of the cases in the footnotes do not contain parenthetical explanations to help the reader better understand the reason for the court's ruling. This is true in only a minority of the footnotes and in no way detracts from the overall value of the work, but I did notice the lapse.
Second, each volume's excellent outline-style Table of Contents is limited to the contents for that volume-the topics covered in Volume Two are not outlined in Volume One, and vice versa. If I were to use the Table of Contents for research, I would find it much more helpful to have the entire contents for both volumes outlined at the beginning of each.
Within 30 days, I used Attorneys' Fees twice for areas related to my practice, and both times it provided helpful insight. It is a valuable reference for any general practitioner's bookshelf.

Andrew C. Simpson is a lawyer in Christiansted, Virgin Islands.

Note: West Group is a corporate sponsor of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division; this article appears in connection with the Section's sponsorship agreement with West Group. Neither the ABA nor ABA sections endorse non-ABA products or services, and this review should not be so construed.

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