johnubc wrote: because of his sloppiness, start looking for another lawyer.
Which to me is an important issue here: The firm was to be paid a significant amount of money to handle a simple estate and failed. Their mishandling of the estate is what caused them not to be paid, and the mishandling of the estate means they don't deserve to be paid. The present outcome seems particularly and unusually just in a way that rarely occurs in this world. It's like bank robbers locking themselves in the vault just before setting off the alarm.
The relationship must not have been so good in the first place for the lawyer to charge so much in this situation when the advice could have been "do it yourself" with this simple estate, as several people have pointed out. Asking to be paid at this point as a result of not doing what they were paid to do properly is absurd and is reason enough on its own to find a new lawyer, even without the bungling of the process of settling the estate. If the relationship were so good, Attorney rather than Associate would have called to let Mary in on the joke that they played on themselves with their own incompetence, in a good-humored and apologetic way.