Make it clear that it’s over and you’re finished. The client hired you to represent him or her in litigation and you’ve completed that task. Now you need to be careful the client understands that the representation contemplated by your attorney-client agreement has been completed, and that you’re not going to undertake any further representation without an additional agreement. Providing confirmation that it’s over is particularly important if the outcome of the litigation is such that the client might want to bring an appeal (or take other postjudgment action).
Address possible appeal assumptions. Even when appellate work isn’t covered by your original agreement, your client might simply assume that an appeal will be taken. That’s why it’s so important that you address this issue if you think your client might be under that misimpression. Consider adding a line to your letter advising the client of the appeal period even if you won’t be handling an appeal or other postjudgment action. For example:
Please note that if you wish to bring an appeal, move for a new trial, or take other postjudgment action, you should immediately seek the assistance of other counsel; any appeal must be taken within _ _[specify number of days]_ _ from the date of the entry of the judgment.
Give specific advice based on the type of case. You can tailor your letter to the particular practice area and include closing information related to your representation of the client. For example,
- In a family law case, you should include an advisement on the need for the client to change his or her will or other testamentary documents or beneficiary designations to reflect new legal statuses, to transfer vehicle titles, or to close credit card accounts, as necessary.
- In a civil action in which money is owed, let the client know that he or she may want to file a lien in the county where the obligor resides to ensure satisfaction of the lien.
- In a criminal matter, you should inform the client of appellate timelines or the potential for the expungement of the client’s convictions and the applicable deadlines in seeking such a remedy.
And don’t forget to make the end abundantly clear: Expressly state that your services are now concluded and your representation of the client with respect to the matter has terminated.
Get sample language to use in letters to your client in all situations from the first meeting to the end of the representation in CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
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