Practice of Law

Don’t Forget to Include Client Responsibilities in Your Fee Agreement

lawyer handing fee agreement to client with provisions setting out responsibilities of lawyer and clientYour attorney fee agreement should not only state your responsibilities as the attorney, it should also include a provision setting out the client’s responsibilities. Check out these sample provisions.

An agreement required by Bus & P C §6148 must set out the “respective responsibilities of the attorney and the client as to the performance of the contract.” Bus & P C §6148(a)(3).

When it comes to your responsibilities as attorney, you could include a provision like this example: “Attorney will _ _[e.g., perform the legal services called for under this agreement, keep Client informed of progress and developments, and respond promptly to Client’s inquiries and communications]_ _.”

But that’s just one side of the relationship. You need to set out the client’s responsibilities, too.

The client responsibilities provision can be something short like this: Client will _ _[e.g., be truthful and cooperative with Attorney; keep Attorney reasonably informed of developments and of Client’s address, telephone number, and whereabouts; and timely make any payments required by this agreement]_ _.”

Or, you can go with a longer alternative provision like this:

In addition to Client’s other responsibilities set out in this agreement, Client will be truthful, candid, and cooperative with Attorney and will keep Attorney informed with complete and accurate factual information, documents, and other communications relevant to the subject matter of Attorney’s representation or as otherwise reasonably requested by Attorney. Client will also assist Attorney by making the necessary personal, business, and strategic decisions appropriate to enable Attorney to accomplish the legal services which Attorney has agreed to perform under the terms of this agreement.

Attorney must be able to communicate with Client at all times to competently render the legal services provided for under the terms of this agreement. Therefore, Client agrees to inform Attorney, in writing, of any changes in _ _[Client’s/Client’s authorized representative’s]_ _ address, telephone, facsimile numbers, and e-mail addresses, or any relevant changes regarding Attorney’s ability to communicate with Client. If Attorney is not able to effectively communicate with Client, then Attorney cannot either properly perform or represent Client’s legal interests with respect to the legal services called for under this agreement.

This type of longer alternative has become a relatively standard clause in fee agreements. If an attorney can’t reach a client for an extended period of time, the attorney’s ability to effectively represent the client may be compromised. This longer provision highlights this to the client and additionally protects the attorney if the client fails to comply.

There are several provisions that must or should be included in your fee agreement. Get sample provisions with accompanying commentary in CEB’s Fee Agreement Forms Manual. And learn effective techniques for avoiding fee disputes through the drafting of fee agreements and managing the client relationship in CEB’s program Attorney Fee Agreements, available On Demand.

Other CEBblog™ posts on drafting attorney fee agreements:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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