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CLE Problem Has Big Price Tag

WASHINGTON (CN) - A problem with continuing legal education contributed to Alabama attorney Rayford Etherton Jr. suing three law firms he claims owe him as much as $800,000 for attorneys fees - 20 percent of fees awarded in a class-action complaint against ExxonMobil. He sued Provost & Umphrey; Rubin Winston Diercks Harris & Cooke; and Pinnacle Law Group in Federal Court.

Etherton claims he was instrumental in arranging for Provost Umphrey of Texas, Rubin Winston of the District of Columbia and Pinnacle of California in bringing the class-action complaint Pascual et al. v ExxonMobil in May 2003 in Alameda County Superior Court, Calif.

Etherton says he did substantial work on the case and the defendants promised him 20 percent of the attorneys' fees. The case alleged improper marketing, advertising and sales of "certain ExxonMobil products."

Etherton claims an agreement in principal was reached in August 2004. On Sept. 15, 2004, he says, the Alabama State Bar suspended his license because he allegedly failed to complete continuing legal education requirement. He says he did not receive notice of this for "several months" because he had failed to notify the Bar of his change of address.

As part of the August 2004 settlement, Etherton says, he and the defendants in this case agreed to put the Pascual litigation on hold while they filed a related action in federal court, with a nationwide class. This case, Meyenburg v ExxonMobil, was filed in January 2005 in the Southern District of Illinois, and was settled in June 2006. The court awarded attorneys fees of $4 million plus $49,000 in expenses.

"Despite repeated demands, Etherton has not been compensated for the reasonable value of the work he performed and the services he provided between 2002 and Sept. 15, 2004," he says.

See complaint.

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