A previous article presented a common dispute that arises between an attorney and client over money. The article pointed out that drawing up a written fee agreement would be the appropriate solution to prevent such disputes. This article will examine the need for a written agreement and what information should be in it.
A written fee agreement is often referred to as a retainer agreement or representation agreement.
These contracts set out the terms of the attorney-client relationship. Depending on the attorney law firm policy, formal contracts may be several pages long, while others may use a simple letter outlining the agreement. Thus, it is not the form of the agreement that is important, what really matters is that the agreement clearly explains certain key issues, such as how lawyer fees will be paid, who will pay for the costs of the lawsuit and who will work on the case.
A written fee agreement is necessary because most of the disputes between lawyers and clients are over money, more specifically, over how much money the client owes the lawyer. In an effort to avoid such problems, some states are requiring that a written fee agreement be drawn at the start of the attorney-client relationship. However, even if your state does not require a written fee agreement, it will benefit you to have a written record of what you agreed to pay the lawyer, should you, later, have a dispute over legal bills. In case of a dispute, you can simply consult the contract instead of arguing over who agreed to what.
Other non-monetary reasons to have an agreement in writing includes the following:
The written agreement is the place where other important issues may be recorded, such as who will argue your case if it goes to trial or the circumstances in which either you or the lawyer can end the relationship.
The agreement can clarify the relationship you expect to have with your Anchorage lawyer. For example, some agreements may state that the lawyer will communicate regularly with the client about lawsuit developments or that the client will respond promptly to the lawyer’s requests.
By putting things in writing, this will compel both, the client and the lawyer, to be very clear about the agreement. Having your agreement down on paper will ensure that you and your lawyer are both on the same page.
It must be noted that a written agreement should state how the lawyer fee will be calculated and how it will be paid. The agreement should also explain what fee structure will be used. Generally, lawyers use one of two ways to charge clients, these are:
Hourly fee - this is an hourly rate which can range from $75 to $300 or more. The agreement should set out the hourly rates of the lawyer and anyone else who might work on your case.
Contingency fee - the agreement should indicate what percentage of an award the lawyer will take, whether that percentage will change over the course of the lawsuit, and how the lawyer will collect the money.