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Maybe Vanessa Hudgens' Lawyer Needs to Go to Ethics School

OK, I'll admit it. My daughters, ages 8 and nearly 11, are huge High School Musical fans, and my original reason for posting about HSM star Vanessa Hudgens' former lawyer suing her for $150,000 in fees was to curry favor with my daughters. But after reading more about the lawsuit, including her former attorney Brian Schall's complaint, I realized that the suit raises some interesting legal questions.

The suit opens with a commentary by Schall's attorney that:

Perhaps Vanessa Hudgens, the star of Disney's High School Musical and its sequel, needs to go back to school to learn a very basic lesson in contractual obligations.  If you ask a lawyer to work for you…you are—no matter how talented and successful you may be—supposed to pay the lawyer for his work."

But I wonder about some of the other issues. For example, according to the lawsuit, Schall advanced expenses to Hudgens for her activities as a singer and songwriter. Though my cursory research on California's ethics rules suggests that California is more liberal about permitting advancement of costs to clients than other jurisdictions, still, wouldn't Schall's payments give rise to a conflict of interest? After all, if Schall were fronting Hudgens' expenses for singing and songwriting, would that give him more incentive to negotiate a deal that might not be in Hudgens' best interest in order to secure repayment of his investment? 

Plus, as a matter of professionalism rather than ethics, I find it distasteful that Schall included the gratuitous comments about his former client "needing to go back to school" in his complaint. It may well be that Schall is right and that Hudgens has attempted to stiff him on his fee. But if that's true, Schall will prevail easily in a California court. He doesn't need to attack his former client with soundbites designed to attract the attention of the court of public opinion. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 19, 2007 at 05:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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