Strange $54 Million Fee-Split Saga Haunts Thelen

"Secrets, lies and betrayal are the heart of any good story.

Add an itinerant Frenchman with dark secrets and a powerful American law firm — first fighting together to expose millions of dollars in fraud, now locked in bitter battle of money and ethics themselves — and you’ve got an epic.

The long-running saga began with allegations of French banks secretively, and illegally, buying a California insurer. It has devolved into a battle over millions of dollars because of shifting — and questionable — fee-splitting deals between Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner and the informant it once represented.

Last February, Francois Marland, the French lawyer and holder of secrets, demanded arbitration over the fee-sharing deal. Thelen, represented by top-flight litigators at Keker & Van Nest, has responded with a lawsuit to cut him off. The showdown trial is scheduled for this summer in the Northern District of California.

At issue is $54 million that the law firm (then Thelen Reid & Priest) was paid for its work in a case that wrought a $715 million payout from a consortium of French bankers in 2005. The fee-sharing agreement in the dispute has raised the hackles of legal ethicists, who say some provisions skate dangerously close to buying Marland’s testimony.

According to filings made in Thelen’s suit, Marland has been paid $19 million of Thelen’s fees. Still, he accuses Thelen of betraying him with another client and putting the firm’s interests ahead of his. He’s looking for $35 million or a greater cut of the contingency fee.

Thelen’s suit claims it doesn’t owe him anything else and wants the court to uphold the latest draft of Marland’s fee agreement "

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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.