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An example of a quantum meruit situation would be if someone mows a person's lawn for a month, and the homeowner benefits, knows about, and accepts that it got mowed; and thereby should understand that it was probably not getting mowed for free.
Some contingency collection lawyers, even if they do not put the words "quantum merit" in their retainer agreements, have clauses that state they have a right to be paid for their time and expenses so far, in the case where their client fires them suddenly. Quantum merit clauses are more commonly used by small collection companies, and by attorneys in sole practices. They are put in place, in case a lawyer puts in (e.g.) 200 hours and some money into a judgment recovery case, only to have the creditor then say: "give my judgment back to me right now". The quantum merit contact clause states the attorney can charge for the work they did.
Some attorneys use quantum meruit clauses, especially after a few bad experiences, working hundreds or thousands of hours on large and complex judgment recovery situations; only to have clients fire them, and then use the information the attorney discovered to attempt to recover the judgment themselves, or choose another lawyer, after the "jar has been loosened".
When there is a quantum meruit-style clause in your attorney's retainer agreement, you might owe the lawyer some money, because such clauses mean a contingency lawyer can get paid for the work they did, if you choose to fire them.
Quantum meruit clauses may not be legal in every state, because they may be considered a contradiction of terms. When it is not defined in a contract, it should not be charged, is the way it goes in many states and courts. When you have a collection agency recover your judgment, quantum merit clauses are very rare, even when their attorneys are working on a contingency basis to recover your judgment.
Not every contingency recovery lawyer uses quantum merit contract clauses. Of course, you are free to not sign their retainer, or try to negotiate some of the terms on it. The fairest quantum merit clauses specify if an attorney is fired, they get paid for only work they have done. While it is specific to Texas, a good PDF article on this subject is at: http://www.jtexconsumerlaw.com/V10N1/V10N1Attorneys.pdf.
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