MDRM — What is an Attorney-Client Fee Agreement

November 16, 2012 MDRM BLOG 0 Comment

An Attorney-Client Fee Agree­ment, or Fee Agreement, is more than just the doc­u­ment that con­trols the legal fees between an attor­ney and client.  A Fee Agree­ment is essen­tially the con­tract between the attor­ney and client.  A well writ­ten Fee Agree­ment will detail the scope of rep­re­sen­ta­tion, legal fees, any con­di­tions of the rep­re­sen­ta­tion, the par­ties respon­si­bil­i­ties, pay­ment plan terms, inci­den­tal costs, dis­charge or with­drawl of the rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the com­mence­ment date of the rela­tion­ship.  It is impor­tant to remem­ber that many of the terms con­tained in the Fee Agree­ment can be nego­ti­ated with the attor­ney.  Some of the terms of the agree­ment the attor­ney will not be able to nego­ti­ate as the attor­ney is bound by attor­ney eth­i­cal rules.  How­ever, you should ask ques­tions to the attor­ney prior to sign­ing the doc­u­ment.  The amount of legal fees and the retainer for the attorney’s ser­vices are gen­er­ally nego­tiable terms unless the fees are set by statute.

Below, we will detail some of the main com­po­nents of the Fee Agreement.

Scope of Representation

The Fee Agree­ment will out­line the scope of the rep­re­sen­ta­tion.  The scope of the rep­re­sen­ta­tion is what exactly the attor­ney and client are agree­ing that the attorney’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion cov­ers.  Specif­i­cally, this sec­tion of the Fee Agree­ment should address the type of case involved.  For exam­ple, it could ref­er­ence an upcom­ing court date, charges the client is fac­ing in a crim­i­nal defense case, the name of the par­ties in a divorce case, a par­tic­u­lar issue or prob­lem that the client needs advice in and a case num­ber.  Also, this sec­tion will indi­cate whether the rep­re­sen­ta­tion cov­ers lit­i­ga­tion, appeals and trials.

Legal Fees

The Fee Agree­ment will out­line the legal fees.  Some attor­neys charge an hourly rate for their legal ser­vices while oth­ers pro­vide a flat fee for a given type of case.  In addi­tion to these types of legal fees, in some cir­cum­stances, an attor­ney may allow a con­tin­gency fee arrange­ment.  Under a con­tin­gency fee arrange­ment, the client is not respon­si­ble for any legal fees unless the attor­ney recov­ers money for the client.  How­ever, the client could still be respon­si­ble for expenses which the attor­ney incurs in prepar­ing the case. 

In many cases, the attor­ney will require a retainer pay­ment prior to begin­ning rep­re­sen­ta­tion.  A retainer is a pay­ment to secure the attorney’s ser­vices and the attor­ney is required to place this retainer pay­ment in a trust account.  There­after, the attor­ney will draw against this retainer pay­ment.  The attor­ney is required to pro­vide an account­ing to the client on a peri­odic basis (usu­ally monthly).

If the attor­ney is per­mit­ting the client to make peri­odic pay­ments for ser­vices, this should be detailed clearly in the Fee Agree­ment.  The attor­ney should spec­ify due dates and any applic­a­ble late fees.

Client Respon­si­bil­i­ties

Most Fee Agree­ments detail the client respon­si­bil­i­ties to the attor­ney.  Usu­ally these respon­si­bil­i­ties are stan­dard in that they require the client to be truth­ful with the attor­ney, keep the attor­ney informed, and respond timely to any requests of the attorney.

Inci­den­tal Costs

In many cases, there could be inci­den­tal costs related to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion such as pho­to­copy­ing, fil­ing fees and trans­porta­tion.  The Fee Agree­ment will detail how much the attor­ney charges the client for these costs if they exceed the actual cost to the attor­ney.  Addi­tion­ally, the Fee Agree­ment will likely make ref­er­ence to any expert wit­ness fees under this section.

Dis­charge and With­drawl of Representation

The Fee Agree­ment will also detail the pro­ce­dure in the event of dis­charge of the attor­ney or with­drawl of rep­re­sen­ta­tion by the attor­ney.  Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the client can dis­charge the attor­ney at any time.  How­ever, the attor­ney may with­drawl only upon the client’s con­sent or upon a show­ing of good cause.

There are other pro­vi­sions which could be con­tained in a Fee Agree­ment.  This arti­cle was meant to high­light only a few of those provisions. 

You should not take any of this infor­ma­tion as legal advice.  Nor did any of this infor­ma­tion cre­ate an attorney-client rela­tion­ship between your­self and the Law Office of DeDecker & Meltzer LLP.  This infor­ma­tion was meant to be gen­eral in nature and your sit­u­a­tion may be dif­fer­ent.  You should con­sult with an attor­ney regard­ing your spe­cific situation.

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None of the infor­ma­tion on this site con­sti­tutes legal advice. It is an ad for attor­ney ser­vices. The attor­neys at DeDecker & Meltzer are licensed attor­neys in the state of Cal­i­for­nia. The infor­ma­tion is intended to be gen­eral in nature as there are many laws and reg­u­la­tions not men­tioned on this site that may apply to your sit­u­a­tion.