Every attorney-client relationship should begin with a well-drafted engagement agreement, not only to comply with ethical requirements, but also to reduce the risk of claims, increase the likelihood of being paid and avoid costly misunderstandings. A healthy attorney-client relationship is built on a solid foundation based on a discussion with the client, followed up with a comprehensive written engagement laying out for both lawyer and client what services the lawyer will provide and how the lawyer will proceed in the representation. When the attorney-client relationship starts in this manner, the client is better informed and the lawyer significantly reduces his or her risk of misunderstanding, an unhappy client, and ultimately a claim against the lawyer.
Have an Engagement Agreement Not Just a Fee Agreement
A fee agreement defines the basis or rate of fee and may be required by the ethics rules, depending on the circumstances. But an engagement agreement is much more than just a fee agreement. Lawyer relationships with their clients are business relationships. Lawyers would never advise clients to enter into a business arrangement without documenting the arrangement. Lawyers should do likewise with their clients and draft engagement agreements using contract-drafting principles. Forms often mean absence of thought so a well-drafted engagement agreement should not be a one size fits all form. Every time you undertake a representation, give thought to whom you represent, what you will do, and how you will do it. Without an agreement defining whom you represent, what you agreed to do, and how you do it, you risk being sued by people you did not believe you represented, for tasks which you did not agree to undertake and you make it difficult to get paid for the work you performed. Continue Reading the Full Article
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