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Excessive Attorney Fees and the Related Issues in the U.S. and Korea

Part Name
Excessive Attorney Fees and the Related Issues in the U.S. and Korea
Kong, Young-Ho
Chungnam National University
Publication Year
KLRI Journal of Law and Legislation, Vol. 7 Issue. 1 Page. 1-22, 2017
Flat fee; Contingency fee; Disciplinary action; Judge recusal; Preferential treatment of former judges; Jury trial
Attorney fees should be set at a fair and reasonable level for both the attorneys and clients. As such, the attorneys must not enter into a retainer agreement with excessive attorney fees. However, the issue of excessive attorney fees has become one of the most controversial issues with respect to the attorney-client relationships not only in the U.S. but also in Korea. This paper first explains the possibilities of attorney fee structures being abused in the form of excessive and unreasonable fees in the U.S. as well as in Korea, while some aspects of abusive practice have relevance only in the U.S. Then, it discusses several methods to curb excessive attorney fees in the U.S. such as placing a limitation on hourly fee rates, requiring court approval for attorney fees, resolving fee disputes by an independent board, and utilizing disciplinary actions.
Also, this paper discusses the issue of"preferential treatment of former judges"as reflected in the excessive fee issues in Korea and proposes several ways to prevent such problem. The first is to use the judge recusal system in the strict way as intended by the relevant law provided. The second is to place some limitations on the legal practice of ex-judges upon their leaving the judiciary.
The third is to utilize the jury trial system to the fullest extent possible by implementing some mesures to avoid the logistical problems with it.
But more important than any proposal to deal with and prevent excessive attorney fee issues would be the mutual trust and repect between the attorneys and clients in terms of attorney fees. Without establishing trust and confidence built upon initially and throughout the legal representation would any attorney-client relationship be on a shaky ground. It is thus very important for the attorneys to candidly discuss the fee issue upfront with the client and to put that agreement and understanding in writing. Also, it is imperative to keep the communication line open and ongoing insofar as there is a possibility for any modification in thier initial agreement. With such honest and continuous channel in place would it be difficult to expect the excessive attorney fee problems to persist continuously.
Table Of Contents

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Ⅰ. Introduction
Ⅱ. Attorney Fee Structures
Ⅲ. Possibiliries of Excessive Fees under Different Fee Structures
A. Flat Fees
B. Contingency Fees
C. Hourly Rate Fees
Ⅳ. Methods to Curb Excessive Attorney Fees
A. Limit on Hourly Rate Fees
B. Court Approval of Attorney Fees
C. Independent Board Resolution of Attorney Fee Disputes
D. Disciplinary Actions
Ⅴ. Measures to Curtail Attorney Fee Issues in Korea
A. Judge Recusal
B. Limitation on Judges' Legal Practice
C. Jury Trials
Ⅵ. Conclusion
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