It is important that our firm and the client agree on the work to be performed. The following information explains the general terms of engagement with our firm. A formal engagement letter setting out specific terms will be sent to each new client confirming the particular scope of engagement. If you have questions, please contact us.
Power of Attorney
As part of the engagement, you authorize the firm to execute on your behalf all complaints, claims, verifications, dismissals, deposits, orders, or other documents within the scope of the engagement. However, we will not settle a lawsuit or other dispute without your advance consent.
Conflicts of Interest
At the beginning of each engagement, we check the names of our existing clients and the parties adverse to them to see if representing the new client would create a conflict of interest. We perform that check using the names provided by the new client. It is important that we be given all names used by the client and its affiliates, as well as all names used by adverse parties, because we enter those names in our conflicts database.
The firm generally submits invoices on a monthly basis. We have a variety of billing formats to accommodate client preferences. Invoices are usually mailed on or about the first of each month. Payments are due thirty days following the date of the invoice.
We are committed to charging our clients reasonable fees. In determining the amount to charge for our services, we consider several factors:
- The time and labor required, the unusual nature and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill needed to perform the legal services properly;
- The fee customarily charged in the locality for similar services and the value of the services to the client;
- The amount of money involved and the results obtained;
- The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;
- The nature of our professional relationship;
- The experience, reputation and ability of the lawyers performing the services;
- The likelihood that acceptance of the engagement will preclude the firm from accepting other client opportunities;
- The extent to which office procedures and systems have produced high-quality work efficiently; and
- The basis for the fee: hourly, fixed, contingent, or a combination (for example, an hourly rate plus a percentage of the recovery). If the fee is contingent, the degree of risk to the firm is also considered.
Among these factors, the time involved is ordinarily weighted most heavily. The hourly rates are adjusted annually, typically on January 1, to reflect increased experience, changes in overhead costs, and other factors.
Advance Fee Deposit
New clients are requested to provide an advance fee deposit (sometimes known as a retainer against future costs), which is deposited in a client trust account. The firm generally applies the advance fee deposit to the client’s final invoice and returns the remaining balance, if any, to the client. The firm may apply the advance fee deposit to interim invoices, in which case the firm will notify the client by documenting the application on the invoice. Paying an advance fee deposit does not relieve the client’s obligation to pay monthly invoices. If an invoice remains unpaid for more than 30 days after invoicing, the firm reserves the right to apply the advance fee deposit to the unpaid balance and to require an additional deposit before performing further work.
Clients may negotiate a retainer fee with the firm. A retainer fee is a fee paid to the firm to secure the firm’s availability for a given period of time. Retainer fees are considered earned by the firm at the time of payment. By agreement with the client, these fees are not refundable and belong to the firm regardless of whether any services are actually performed for the client.
Estimates vs. Fixed Fees
Clients occasionally request advance estimates of fees. An estimate, although based on the lawyer’s professional judgment, will often be affected by factors outside the control of the firm and should not be considered a fixed rate or maximum fee. It is possible in certain situations to quote a fixed fee. In these instances, the firm provides a letter stating the fixed fee and the specific services to be performed.
Client Trust Account
Trust deposits from clients (including advance fee deposits) are held in a client trust account. By court rule in the jurisdictions where we practice, the funds deposited to a trust account are subject to IOLTA (Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Account) participation and used to support law-related charitable and educational activities. However, when the deposit is large enough to earn interest in excess of bank and administrative costs, the firm opens an interest-bearing account and credits the interest to the client until the deposit is applied.
Contingent Fee Arrangement
The firm sometimes agrees to represent a client under a contingent fee arrangement. Such engagements must be approved in advance and reflected in a signed agreement between the firm and the client.
Although the client may have insurance covering the services to be performed by the firm, primary responsibility for payment remains with the client.
In addition to professional fees, an invoice includes charges for other services the firm provides or arranges. Examples include charges for photocopying, delivery, long-distance telephone calls, facsimile transmission, travel, word processing, document management, computer-assisted research, investigation, court reporting, and witness, notary and court fees. These charges are explained in more detail in our engagement letter.
All amounts on the client’s account remaining unpaid for more than 30 days after invoicing accrue interest at 10% per annum.
Past Due Accounts
If an account becomes more than 30 days past due, the firm may stop performing legal work until the account is brought current. If a bill remains unpaid, the firm may also withdraw from further representation. When the firm incurs costs to collect the amount due, the firm shall be entitled to its collection costs and a reasonable attorney’s fee.
You may terminate the engagement at any time, with or without cause, by providing written notice to the firm. If such termination occurs, papers and property that you have provided to us will be returned to you promptly upon receipt of payment for outstanding fees and costs. Your termination of our services will not affect your responsibility for payment of fees and charges incurred before termination or in connection with an orderly transition of the matter. Subject to applicable ethical rules, the firm may also terminate the engagement. These rules permit or sometimes require withdrawal. Before taking such action, however, the firm will provide the client written notice.
If you disagree with the amount of our fee, please contact the responsible lawyer or the alternate contact named in the engagement letter. Typically we can resolve such disagreements satisfactorily with little inconvenience or formality. In the event a fee dispute is not readily resolved, you have the right to request arbitration under supervision of the state bar associations of the jurisdictions in which we practice, and we agree to participate fully in that process.