Sounds like the start of a joke? This litigation is obviously not a joke for either side. Bois Schiller uses an arbitration clause in their engagement letter, requiring arbitration of anything “arising from or relating to the Engagement” and they will go to great lengths to enforce it. Even this particular billionaire client was unable to keep his case in court.
Guo Wengui v Schiller 2019 NY Slip Op 31436(U) May 23, 2019 Supreme Court, New York County Docket Number: 150001/2019 Judge: Joel M. Cohen determines that a properly written arbitration clause is perfectly enforceable in New York.
“This case involves a claim by a client (Guo Wengui a/k/a Miles Kwok, “Kwok”) against his former law firm (Boies Schiller Flexner, LLP, “Boise Schiller”) and one of its partners (Joshua Schiller) based on conduct allegedly occurring after the attorney-client relationship had ended. Defendants move to compel arbitration of the claims (and to stay the instant litigation) on the ground that the claims are subject to mandatory arbitration pursuant to an engagement letter setting forth the terms of Kwok’s retention of Boies Schiller. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants’ motion is granted, and the action is stayed during the pendency of the arbitration. ”
“New York has a “long and strong public policy favoring arbitration … as a means of conserving the time and resources of the courts and the contracting parties.” Stark v Molod Spitz Desantis & Stark, P.C., 9 N.Y.3d 59, 66 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Parties “will not be held to have chosen arbitration as the forum for the resolution of their disputes in the absence of an express, unequivocal agreement to that effect.” BR Ambulance Serv., Inc. v Nationwide Nassau Ambulance, 150 A.D.2d 745 (2nd Dep’t 1989) (internal citations omitted).
Here, while the specific conduct of which Plaintiff complains took place after the attorney-client relationship ended, the claims in this case plainly arise out of and relate to Plaintiff’s engagement of Defendants as his counsel. Absent the attorney-client relationship between the parties, Plaintiff would have no claim for legal malpractice or breach of fiduciary duty. As such, the claims are covered by the broad arbitration provision in the Engagement Agreement. See Menche v. Meltzer, Lippe, Goldstein & Breitstone, LLP, 129 A.D.3d 682, 682 (2nd Dep’t 2015) (arbitration provision that “any dispute arising out of or relating to this agreement and/or the legal services rendered
hereunder” was held to be “clear, explicit, and unequivocal, and [the plaintiff’s] legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty causes of action fall within the broad scope of this provision.”).
Kwok’s contention that the arbitration agreement is applicable only to disputes over attorneys’ fees is meritless. The arbitration clause is broad and unequivocally refers to “a dispute” that “aris[es] from or relat[es] to the Engagement,” without any substantive limitation. See Menche, supra. Although the arbitration paragraph provides for a different arbitration option if the dispute relates to “fees involving a sum between $1,000 and $50,000,” which is not applicable here, it nowhere suggests that the arbitration right is limited to such disputes. ”