Two Florida radio shock jockeys, whose job it is to shock and astound listeners, were themselves stunned when they received a bill from their former attorney, which demanded an additional $1 million in legal fees on top of the $1 million that they had already paid to their attorney. DJ Todd “MJ” Schnitt and his wife lost a heated defamation suit again Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, who is also a shock jockey, a number of months ago. After the defamation suit, Schnitt and his wife fired their attorney, C. Philip Campbell of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick. Schnitt stated that he and his wife had already paid over $1 million in legal fees to Campbell and refused to pay the additional $1 million that Campbell was seeking. Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick attempted to acquire the remaining legal fees from Schnitt, and Schnitt subsequently filed a legal malpractice suit against the law firm, seeking the return of the money he had already paid in legal fees.
It is now up to Judge Charles Bergmann to decide whether Schnitt is required to pay the remaining $1 million in legal fees, whether Schnitt pays nothing additional, or whether Schnitt receives his initial fees back from Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick. Currently in dispute is the forum in which Schnitt and Campbell will fight their battle. Schnitt is requesting a public trial, in which he can argue his case in front of a jury. Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick want to resolve this dispute privately, in front of an arbitration panel comprised of attorneys. The Shumaker firm argued that Schnitt’s request for a public trial is actually irrelevant because Schnitt had already signed an arbitration clause which stated that if any type of dispute with the law firm arose, Schnitt would be required to settle the dispute through arbitration.
The Schnitts’ attorney has stated that his clients never received an arbitration clause. This dispute demonstrates the importance of carefully reading the retainer agreement with one’s attorney to determine the parameters at the outset of the representation. Doing so, in addition to requesting a budget from one’s attorneys, can help to avoid high legal fees, and also can avoid later disagreements over the forum in which disputes with the law firm should be heard.