T. MARK SLEDGE
GRENFELL SLEDGE AND STEVENS, PLLC d/b/a GRENFELL & STEVENS, PLLC, JAMES B. GRENFELL AND JOHN HUNTER STEVENS, INDIVIDUALLY
OF JUDGMENT: 06/19/2017
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. M. RONALD DOLEAC
COURT ATTORNEYS: WILLIAM C. WALTER STEVEN HISER FUNDERBURG
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: T. JACKSON LYONS MARC E. BRAND
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: STEVEN H. FUNDERBURG
WALLER, C.J., COLEMAN AND MAXWELL, JJ.
Upon the withdrawal of T. Mark Sledge from the law firm
Grenfell Sledge and Stevens, PLLC, an issue arose regarding
the fee distribution for several of the firm's and
Sledge's cases, more specifically, the interpretation of
the firm's partnership agreements and related documents.
Sledge filed suit against his former firm and its individual
members. Following a hearing, the Hinds County Chancery Court
granted the motion for summary judgment filed by Grenfell
Sledge and Stevens, PLLC, and its individual members and also
a declaratory judgment in their favor. Sledge challenges the
chancery court's rulings; however, we are unpersuaded by
his arguments on appeal and affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On April 3, 2014, James Grenfell, T. Mark Sledge, and John H.
Stevens executed a "Supplement to Partnership Agreement
For Grenfell, Sledge & Stevens" (Supplement
Agreement) to address the division of fees in general and,
more specifically, the division of fees and firm property in
the event of death, disability, retirement, withdrawal of
firm members, and/or dissolution of the firm. The Supplement
Agreement became effective on January 1, 2014, although it
was not executed until April 3, 2014.
According to the Supplement Agreement's section providing
for the division of fees, Grenfell Sledge and Stevens, PLLC,
Beginning January 1, 2014, cases signed up after that date,
not related to joint firm advertisement, the said partner
that obtained case or fee generated therefrom will be
entitled to fifty percent . . . of the fee as compensation
from the case, from the total fee to the firm, with the
remaining fifty percent . . . to be divided per the prior
partnership agreement [or one-third] each after the payment
of overhead and expenses. We recognize that on these
individual cases the partner who has the case is responsible
for fifty percent . . . of the case specific expenses until
settlement. The remaining fifty percent . . . expenses will
be paid from the general partnership fund. . . . The
Agreement set forth above will take place in the year 2014
and in the year 2015 the partner obtaining the case or
generating the fee will be entitled to sixty percent . . . of
the fee and be responsible for sixty percent . . . of the
expenses on each case under the same terms as set forth
above. In 2016, the generating partner's percentage will
increase to seventy percent . . . of the fees and expenses as
set forth above. In 2017, the generating partner's
percentage will increase to eighty percent . . . as set forth
above. In 2018, the generating partner's percentage will
increase to ninety percent . . . as set forth above. In 2019
and in subsequent years, the generating partner will be
entitled to one hundred percent . . . of the fees they
generated and will be responsible for one hundred percent . .
. of the expenses on each case.
each member was required to pay one-third of the expenses for
operation of the common office-operation expenses.
The Supplement Agreement also contained a provision for how
fees would be handled in the event of the death, disability,
retirement, or withdrawal of a member. According to the
Should a member of this partnership retire, withdraw, die or
become permanently unable to practice law, fees from cases
that he leaves with the firm will be handled by the remaining
partner(s) and he or his estate or representative will
receive one-half . . . of any fees from cases resolved in the
first six . . . months following his departure or one-third .
. . of the fees generated from cases remaining with the firm
thereafter. Said . . . withdrawn . . . partner will receive
compensation only on his cases or on cases obtained through
advertising and referred to other law firms as addressed
below. . . .
Cases that were advertised for and referred to other
attorneys . . . will continue to be divided one-third . . .,
one-third . . ., one-third . . ., whenever resolved, unless
the referred case results in substantial work for the
remaining partner(s). . . . Where advertisement is ongoing at
the time of . . . withdrawal, the departing partner will be
entitled to fees from, and only from, cases that are signed
up prior to his . . . withdrawal.
Fees from cases obtain[ed] through joint firm advertisement .
. . will continue to be divided equally between the partners.
. . .
Last, but also important, the Supplement Agreement stated,
"Any dispute or decision related to this agreement or
partnership shall be settled by a majority vote of the
Then, on April 30, 2014, Grenfell, Sledge, and Stevens
amended the Supplement Agreement because it "did not
address each partner[']s case inventory of individual
existing cases in the office before January 2014[.]" The
Amended Supplement Agreement explained, "From this day
forward each partner will receive [fifty] percent of the fees
brought into the firm of any case considered an individual
case that was signed up before [January] 2014. The remaining
[fifty] percent will be divided [twenty-five] percent to each
of the other [two] partners."
The group operated as such until Sledge provided notice to
the others that he was withdrawing from the firm effective
August 4, 2015. According to Sledge, he was
"forced" to withdraw from the firm "[d]ue to
the intentional actions of members Grenfell and Stevens,
including harassment, false accusations, breach of good ...