plaintiff commences litigation. This could require up to three proceedings, call them A, B, and C, that are customarily run in sequence, that is, one after another. That is, if plaintiff wins A, there is no need to pursue B, and if the plaintiff loses both A and B, there is no point in pursuing C.

A judge in jurisdiction Y disclaims jurisdiction, citing jurisdiction X's priority. So the law firm appeals in jurisdiction Y. Meanwhile a judge in jurisdiction X advises plaintiff not to proceed with the underlying case, until he decides whether or not the defendant has the "standing" to be sued in its jurisdiction.

The law firm runs all three proceedings simultaneously (the appeal in jurisdiction Y, the standing case in jurisdiction X, and the underlying case in jurisdiction X). The effect is that it is collecting all three sets of fees, when the judges have advised the plaintiff to proceed with one proceeding at a time. Is this considered ethical or acceptable behavior? Is there anything the client can do to discourage this?

  • Are you sure you understand the legal options here? Apart from appeals or escalating dispute resolution clauses, a plaintiff must bring all their causes of action at the same time or else the ones they didn’t bring will be res judicata. – Dale M Apr 20 '20 at 0:55
  • @DaleM: Let's say, actions A and B are in jurisdictions X and Y. As I understand it, jurisdiction X has the "first crack" at this matter, because that's where the defendant was incorporated.. Jurisdiction Y, where the cause of action took place, cannot take the case until jurisdiction X has either resolved it, or else given plaintiff standing to sue in jurisdiction Y. In fact, jurisdiction Y "remanded" the case to jurisdiction X. So was the lawyer either incompetent or unethical? And if the plaintiff cannot win "standing" in either jurisdiction A or B, there's no point in pursuing the case, C. – Libra Apr 20 '20 at 1:03
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    "The law firm starts all three proceedings simultaneously in order to collect all three sets of fees." Whereas that might be the case that they indeed do that just to collect more fees, you either need to be sure it is (and tell us why), or rephrase your question. – Greendrake Apr 20 '20 at 1:36
  • @Greendrake "you either need to be sure it is (and tell us why), or rephrase your question". No, there is no need for the OP to do either. Whether an act or state of mind would be ethical or unethical does not depend on whether an observer (here the OP) is sure that it actually is taking place. – Iñaki Viggers Apr 20 '20 at 10:37

The law firm starts all three proceedings simultaneously in order to collect all three sets of fees. Is this considered ethical or acceptable behavior?

No. The client would have to knowingly and willfully consent to that.

No procedural or substantive law requires a party to retain the same attorney(s) in related or unrelated proceedings. In fact, a party is entitled to switch lawyers or dismiss his attorney(s) even in the course of any one set of proceedings. Thus, besides arrogant, the attorney's assumption that the party will retain him for all proceedings is unfounded and therefore unreasonable. Rule 1.5 of professional conduct discourages the act of collecting unreasonable fees.

More specifically, item (a)(5) of rule 1.5 refers to "time limitations imposed [...] by the circumstances". Here, the contingency upon which proceedings B and C are premised is clearly a circumstance that affects the timing --and even the pertinence or pointlessness-- for starting proceedings B and C.

Therefore, an act which (1) the attorney knows --or should know-- is unreasonable, and (2) yet he simultaneously knows with all certainty that it will increase attorney fees is unethical and unacceptable.

Is there anything the client can do to discourage this?

The client might want to remind the attorney or law firm of the aforementioned rule 1.5, and/or that the client has not decided who he would retain for subsequent proceedings B and C. Regardless, if the attorney needs a reminder to that effect, that would be a red flag.

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