Attorney Engagement Letter: How To Write It Right!

Key Takeaways

  • An attorney engagement letter is a formal document outlining the scope of legal services to be provided, fees, and the responsibilities of both the attorney and the client.
  • Clarity, specificity, and professionalism are paramount when drafting an engagement letter.
  • Include sections on scope of services, payment terms, retainer fees, and confidentiality.
  • Use a professional and respectful tone while ensuring all potential legal requirements are met.
  • Templates can provide a starting point, but customization is key to address the specifics of each case.
  • Regular updates and revisions to the template are necessary to keep it compliant with current laws and regulations.

When entering into a new client-attorney relationship, an engagement letter is not just a formality; it’s a crucial document that establishes the expectations and obligations of both parties. Below, we provide a step-by-step guide on how to write an effective attorney engagement letter, complete with a template to get you started.

Step 1: Define the Scope of Services

Be explicit about what legal services you will provide. This section should be detailed to prevent scope creep and to ensure the client understands what is included in the engagement.

Watercolor painting of an attorney engagement letter

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The scope of services for this engagement will include:

Watercolor painting woman typing on a sleek black laptop

  • Drafting and reviewing contracts
  • Providing legal consultation regarding labor laws
  • Representation in court proceedings related to the above matters

Step 2: Detail the Payment Terms

Clearly outline how you will charge for your services, whether it’s a fixed fee, hourly rate, or contingency basis. Include payment schedules, invoicing procedures, and any late payment penalties.

Table: Fee Structure

ServiceRate/FeePayment Terms
Consultation$200/hrDue upon receipt of invoice
Contract Drafting$500 flat fee50% upfront, 50% upon completion

Step 3: Discuss Retainer Fees

If you require a retainer fee, explain how it will be used and when it must be replenished. Provide specifics about any unused portions of the retainer at the engagement’s conclusion.

Step 4: Address Confidentiality

Reassure your client that their information will be kept confidential. This section can also include attorney-client privilege implications.

Step 5: Explain Dispute Resolution

Detail how any disagreements between the attorney and client will be resolved, whether through mediation, arbitration, or litigation.

Step 6: Include a Termination Clause

Specify the circumstances under which either party can terminate the engagement and any notice required.

Step 7: Add General Provisions

Cover any miscellaneous terms that are relevant to the engagement, such as governing law, indemnification, or liability limitations.

Step 8: Closing and Signature Lines

End the letter with a cordial closing, and include signature lines for both the attorney and the client.

Attorney Engagement Letter Template

[Attorney’s Letterhead or Firm’s Name] [Date]

[Client’s Name] [Client’s Address]

Dear [Client’s Name],

We are pleased to have the opportunity to provide legal services to you. This letter confirms our understanding of the terms and the nature of the legal services we will provide.

Scope of Services:

[List services to be provided in detail]

Payment Terms:

[List all payment information, rates, and billing practices]

Retainer Fees:

[Discuss the retainer fee, how it will be applied, and replenishment terms]


[Statement ensuring the confidentiality of client information]

Dispute Resolution:

[Explain the preferred method of dispute resolution]


[Describe the termination rights of both parties]

General Provisions:

[List any additional terms and conditions]

Please acknowledge your agreement to these terms by signing and returning a copy of this letter.


[Attorney’s Name] 

[Attorney’s Signature Line]

Acknowledged and Agreed:

[Client’s Name] 

[Client’s Signature Line]


  • Customize the engagement letter to reflect the specifics of each legal case.
  • Always keep the client’s needs and concerns at the forefront when drafting the letter.
  • Regularly review and update your engagement letter template to ensure compliance with evolving laws and regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is an engagement letter from an attorney? 

Answer: An attorney engagement letter is a formal document that defines the relationship between an attorney and a client. It outlines the services provided, the fee structure, and other critical terms of engagement, serving as a clear roadmap for both parties.

Q: Are engagement letters mandatory? 

Answer: While the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct recommend written engagement letters, they are not generally required except for contingency fee agreements, which must be in writing. 

Nonetheless, some states, including California, New York, and Washington, require written engagement letters. It’s always best to consult the rules of professional conduct in your jurisdiction.

Q: What are the benefits of a well-drafted engagement letter? 

Answer: A well-drafted engagement letter can lay a strong foundation for the attorney-client relationship, set professional boundaries, manage client expectations, reduce the likelihood of malpractice claims, and clearly define the scope and goals of the services provided.

Q: What essential components should an engagement letter include? 

Answer: An effective engagement letter should include the identity of the client, the scope and duration of the representation, details on fees, expenses, and billing practices, staffing details, and communication protocols. 

Additionally, it should address confidentiality and have termination clauses specifying the conditions under which either party may terminate the relationship.

Q: Is an attorney engagement letter privileged? 

Answer: Yes, the attorney engagement letter is considered a privileged communication, just like any other confidential interaction between an attorney and a client. It cannot be disclosed without the client’s consent, thus ensuring privacy and security for the client.

Q: Can an arbitration clause be incorporated in an engagement letter?

Answer: Yes, an arbitration clause can be included in an engagement letter. This means that any disputes arising from the engagement would be resolved through arbitration, which is often faster and less expensive than litigation. However, it is crucial that the client fully understand the implications of such a clause before agreeing to it.