Insurers, defense counsel, lecturers all tell us that attorney fee suits, and threats, are a major source of discipline and legal malpractice litigation.  Here is yet another example.

"When a client hesitated over paying his bill, Richard Ledingham threatened her with criminal prosecution for "theft of services" and he didn’t stop there: He also warned that she might lose her business, her home and her professional license.

Those actions — all to collect a fee judged to be exorbitant — are cause for suspending the River Vale solo from practice for three months, says New Jersey’s Disciplinary Review Board.

Despite an ethics committee’s call for a reprimand and Ledingham’s lack of prior discipline in 25 years of practice, the board sought suspension "insomuch as he threatened his client’s ruination in all aspects of her life, even including her ability to provide for her children."

In its opinion issued Monday, In re Richard Ledingham, DRB 06-235, the board noted Ledingham’s failure to appear at the District IIA Ethics Committee hearing below, his lack of contrition and his attempt to collect "a grossly excessive fee."

According to the opinion, Ledingham billed his client Karen Ferwerda $52,742 for representing her in the purchase of a Sylvan Learning Center franchise in December 2003. When Ferwerda retained him in June 2003, Ledingham agreed to send monthly invoices but never did do until the purchase closed.

Ledingham’s work for Ferwerda was not extensive, the DRB found. He reviewed documents for a Small Business Administration loan for which she was approved but did not pursue. He reviewed a lease agreement but did not negotiate the terms. And he looked over the Sylvan franchise agreement, which was presented to her as a "take-it-or-leave-it" deal.

Ledingham, also a certified public accountant, charged Ferwerda $175 an hour. But his charges included 47 hours for studying a four-page section of the Internal Revenue Code §197, which deals with amortization of intangibles. "


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Andrew Lavoott Bluestone

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened…

Andrew Lavoott Bluestone has been an attorney for 40 years, with a career that spans criminal prosecution, civil litigation and appellate litigation. Mr. Bluestone became an Assistant District Attorney in Kings County in 1978, entered private practice in 1984 and in 1989 opened his private law office and took his first legal malpractice case.

Since 1989, Bluestone has become a leader in the New York Plaintiff’s Legal Malpractice bar, handling a wide array of plaintiff’s legal malpractice cases arising from catastrophic personal injury, contracts, patents, commercial litigation, securities, matrimonial and custody issues, medical malpractice, insurance, product liability, real estate, landlord-tenant, foreclosures and has defended attorneys in a limited number of legal malpractice cases.

Bluestone also took an academic role in field, publishing the New York Attorney Malpractice Report from 2002-2004.  He started the “New York Attorney Malpractice Blog” in 2004, where he has published more than 4500 entries.

Mr. Bluestone has written 38 scholarly peer-reviewed articles concerning legal malpractice, many in the Outside Counsel column of the New York Law Journal. He has appeared as an Expert witness in multiple legal malpractice litigations.

Mr. Bluestone is an adjunct professor of law at St. John’s University College of Law, teaching Legal Malpractice.  Mr. Bluestone has argued legal malpractice cases in the Second Circuit, in the New York State Court of Appeals, each of the four New York Appellate Divisions, in all four of  the U.S. District Courts of New York and in Supreme Courts all over the state.  He has also been admitted pro haec vice in the states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Florida and was formally admitted to the US District Court of Connecticut and to its Bankruptcy Court all for legal malpractice matters. He has been retained by U.S. Trustees in legal malpractice cases from Bankruptcy Courts, and has represented municipalities, insurance companies, hedge funds, communications companies and international manufacturing firms. Mr. Bluestone regularly lectures in CLEs on legal malpractice.

Based upon his professional experience Bluestone was named a Diplomate and was Board Certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys in 2008 in Legal Malpractice. He remains Board Certified.  He was admitted to The Best Lawyers in America from 2012-2019.  He has been featured in Who’s Who in Law since 1993.

In the last years, Mr. Bluestone has been featured for two particularly noteworthy legal malpractice cases.  The first was a settlement of an $11.9 million dollar default legal malpractice case of Yeo v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman which was reported in the NYLJ on August 15, 2016. Most recently, Mr. Bluestone obtained a rare plaintiff’s verdict in a legal malpractice case on behalf of the City of White Plains v. Joseph Maria, reported in the NYLJ on February 14, 2017. It was the sole legal malpractice jury verdict in the State of New York for 2017.

Bluestone has been at the forefront of the development of legal malpractice principles and has contributed case law decisions, writing and lecturing which have been recognized by his peers.  He is regularly mentioned in academic writing, and his past cases are often cited in current legal malpractice decisions. He is recognized for his ample writings on Judiciary Law § 487, a 850 year old statute deriving from England which relates to attorney deceit.