Engagement agreement/letter

Written communications from lawyers to clients and prospective clients are very important to establish the expectations of clients. And engagement letters, in particular, are essential to establish the threshold of these expectations.

A recent article in the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Update sets forth a number of matters that should be included in an engagement agreement. These elements include the following:

*Who the lawyer is representing
*The scope of the representation including, when appropriate, what the lawyer is not undertaking
*The fee to be charged and the manner in which the fee is to be calculated
*When the fee is to be paid
*The consequences of non-payment, including the right to withdraw
*The client’s responsibilities, including the obligation pay the lawyer’s fee in accordance with the terms of the agreement
*Dispute resolution
*Ethical issues, if any, including potential conflicts of interest

I would add another element: Add a signature stamp in the margin of the agreement at every point where fees and payment schedules are discussed. Ask the client to initial each of these, indicating his understanding and agreement with the provision next to his initials.

This will go a long way to assuring prompt payment by the client.

Then, it is the responsibility of the lawyer to carefully monitor the client’s payment performance to be assured that the client is honoring his/her part of the bargain and to withdraw, if necessary, before the client owes the lawyer too much money, contrary to the parties understanding.


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