Aside from your jurisdiction’s ethical rules, the single most important document that defines your relationship with your client is your retainer agreement or engagement letter. When was the last time you reviewed your agreement?
Here are some essential elements to include in your retainer agreement:
1. Scope of work: Does your agreement accurately and specifically reflect the work you will perform for the client (and the work you won’t perform under the agreement?) If you’re retained for a litigation matter, does your retainer agreement include working on an appeal? Does preparation of a will for a client include a health care proxy, living will and durable power of attorney, or are will those services require a separate agreement (and a separate fee)?
2. A time limitation. Don’t leave yourself open for problems with clients that fail to return your retainer agreement. Your agreement should state specifically that the provisions contained within it (including the fee) are only valid if the agreement iss signed within a specific period of time (i.e. 2 weeks. one month, etc.) Make it clear that if the agreement (and retainer fee) are not received within that period of time, you are not obligated to represent the client.
Read the rest of this retainer review at Legal Ease Blog and for help reviewing your retainer agreement and/or other forms or procedures in your office, feel free to contact Allison Shields, the author.
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