When you hire a lawyer to represent you, it is important to have a clear written fee agreement. This agreement should spell out the cost of the legal representation, other expenses and cost of work to be done. This article and subsequent ones will discuss aspects that should be found in a lawyer’s fee agreement.
Most of the disputes that exist between lawyers and clients are over money. Specifically, it is over how much money the client owes the lawyer. In order to avoid these problems states require that there be written fee agreements between lawyer and client. Whether it is a requirement or not in your state you should get a written record. This should show what you have agreed to pay the lawyer to clarify the agreement.
Other names for a fee agreement are, retainer agreement or representation agreement. The agreement sets out the following:
- The fees
- Terms of the lawyer-client relationship
The agreement must clearly explain:
- How the lawyer fees will be paid by the client
- Who will be working on the matter
- In a lawsuit, how court costs will be paid
Further, the agreement must set out the circumstances around which either party, lawyer or client, can end the relationship. It may also set out rules of conduct, such as, regular communication from the lawyer regarding developments in your case. And/or the client’s prompt response to requests from the lawyer.
The fee agreement is a contract and thus binds both parties, the lawyer and the client, to its terms. As a contract, the fee agreement should be signed only after the client is confident they understand all the terms. And also, that they agree to uphold these terms. Where something is not clear, in even the slightest way, ask the lawyer to explain it to you. If you get a clear, sensible answer, then you have a good lawyer on your hands. If not, this is a red flag that you should not ignore.