Law Practice Management and Technology

The Bottom Line Volume 35, No.6 , December 2014

MCLE Self-Study Article Retainer Agreement Basics

By Patrick Maloney, Esq.

This article is posted in our self-study catalog.
Click here for information on how to access 1.0 study credits

Carefully prepared retainer agreements reduce the likelihood of disputes with clients. Unfortunately, many attorneys default to a “one size fits all” retainer agreement and fail to tailor the agreement to each engagement. Or, if they take the time to customize their standard form, in the rush to sign the client, latent ambiguities creep into the document, only to surface at a later date. An attorney’s failure to prepare a proper fee agreement may result in her fee being determined by what is “reasonable,” rather than what was agreed upon.1

When preparing a fee agreement, counsel should be cognizant of the applicable rules and carefully tailor the agreement to the particulars of the proposed representation. The minimum requirements for a fee agreement may be found in the California Business & Professions Code, as well as the California Rules of Professional Conduct. Reported decisions from the California courts, as well as ethics opinions produced by the California State Bar and local bar associations, provide additional guidance.

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