An attorney engagement letter is recommended before a contract is signed, whether a person wants to hire an attorney or an attorney wants to sign a new client.
Before a contract is signed, this letter helps preserve the attorney’s and client’s legal rights and obligations by clarifying the relationship.
An attorney engagement letter is required for:
- A lawyer or law firm that is providing services to a business or individual.
- An individual who is contracting with a lawyer or law firm for legal services.
The letter outlines the attorney-client relationship and defines the terms and conditions of legal services provided to a person or business.
For example, an attorney may agree to defend a client in bankruptcy proceedings, but if the bankruptcy results in the client being sued by a creditor, the client may incur additional costs. Clients have responsibilities as well.
They may be required to attend all court proceedings, submit paperwork, and copy official documents. Taking up some of these obligations may be in the client’s best interests because it will save him or her money on legal bills.
Some of the details that need to be included in the letter are:
- The name of the client
- The name of the attorney or law firm
- A description of the legal services required
- How the attorney will be paid
- If the attorney charges hourly rates
- Whether the law firm has different rates for attorneys and legal aides
- The terms of the payment
- Whether a deposit is required and, if so, how much it is
- The conditions under which the agreement may be terminated by the attorney or the client
- Which state’s laws will govern the agreement
A simple attorney engagement letter is exemplified in the example below. The client or attorney can add as many specifics as they want, but this is the basic foundation of the agreement.
Certified mail should be used to send the letter, and certified mail should be used to return the signed copy to the attorney.
There may be different letters for:
- Fees including hourly, contingency and third party payment of fees
- Joint representation
- Local counsel
- Limited scope retainer agreement
Attorney Engagement Letter sample
LAW OFFICE LETTERHEAD
City, State, Zip Code
City, State, Zip Code
RE: Engagement for legal services
File ID: NUMBER
Dear Client’s Name:
We are pleased that you have asked our firm to serve as your counsel. The purpose of this letter is to confirm in writing the nature of the engagement and the terms of our representation in the state of [Name of State].
If you have any questions about this agreement please call me for clarification. If you agree with the terms, kindly sign and return one copy of this letter.
Range of Representation
We have been engaged to represent Client’s Name for the purpose of [STATE PURPOSE], which will hereafter be referred to as the “matter”.
Fees and Billing
Our fees are based on an hourly rate for each attorney, from [AMOUNT] to [AMOUNT] and for legal assistants who give time to this matter from AMOUNT to [AMOUNT] per hour.
These rates are subject to change. Other factors that may determine fees are the urgency of the matter, the responsibility assumed, the difficulty of the matter, time constraints put by the client and the results obtained as well as any unforeseen circumstances.
Out-of-pocket as well as administrative expenses are billed. I have attached our billing fee policy that is part of the terms and conditions of our engagement. We reserve the right to withdraw if these bills are not paid.
You will deposit the amount of [AMOUNT] in our trust account for fees and costs. We may ask for more to be deposited should it appear to be necessary. If there is any balance in the account when the matter is complete, we will return it to you.
I will send documents including pleadings and correspondence to you. These are your file copies and should be retained. Please bring all copies to our meetings, so we both have all the information.
When my legal work on the matter is complete, I will return all original documents to you. I will keep copies for seven (7) years from the date the matter ends and destroy the file at that time unless you ask me in writing to keep the documents for a longer period.
If you agree with everything stated in this letter and the attached billing policy, please sign one copy and send it back to be by certified mail.
We are happy to represent you, and you can call at any time for more information.
Signature of Attorney
Printed Name of Attorney
I hear-by give my consent to the contents of this letter. I agree with the proposed course of conduct and have received adequate information. I understand the risks and reasonable alternatives to the proposed course of conduct.
Printed Name of Client and DATE