If your lawyers negotiated a $20 million settlement for you, you’d be happy as a lark, wouldn’t you? You certainly wouldn’t complain about a jackpot like that. Only a colossal ingrate would act as if he’d been cheated by a settlement of that size.
Unless, of course, more than half of that princely sum went to lawyers’ fees and expenses, and you had to split the less than $10 million that was left over with 11,255 other plaintiffs. In that case, a little crabbing might be in order.
Imagine having to explain a deal like that to your clients, who’ve waited ten years or more only to receive a check for less than 900 bucks!
You might begin something like this: “We understand that the East St. Louis community has been denied justice in past years, and this is one of the key reasons we desired to take this case in the first place.”
That, in fact, is how the Environmental Litigation Group of Birmingham, Ala., and local lawyer Paul Schoen began their Nov. 7 letter to disgruntled clients in East St. Louis, detailing the pollution accusations settlement reached with Monsanto on their behalf.
The settlement Monsanto agreed to came to nearly $21 million, but less than half of that amount ($9,874,739.24) will be, or already has been, dispersed to plaintiffs, for an average payout of $873.
The larger “half” ($10,831,284.36) went more or less equally to attorney fees and expenses.
The apologetic attorneys avowed themselves champions of transparency, but reminded their clients that their claims against recycler Cerro Copper have yet to be settled and cautioned them not to discuss the case publicly.
“As we have said repeatedly, it is in your best interest and the best interest of all clients that communications between our clients and their attorneys remain confidential and attorney-client-privileged so as not to jeopardize your case going forward.”
Such taciturnity is no doubt in the best interests of Paul Schoen and the Environmental Litigation Group, too. Vocal clients expressing dissatisfaction are not good for business.