May 15, 2020 Feature

Billing Clients: An Ethical and Best Practices Primer for Family Law Practitioners

Marcy Tench Stovall

Fee Agreements Should Be in Writing

The most basic necessity for proper management of fees and billing is having a written engagement agreement. This is a matter of best practices and is not always an ethical obligation. One surprising thing about the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (adopted in some version in every U.S. jurisdiction) is that they do not require that hourly fee agreements be in writing. Rule 1.5 of the Model Rules provides only that the basis of the fee and the scope of the representation “be communicated to the client preferably in writing” at the beginning of the representation (emphasis added). While the Model Rules require that contingency fee agreements be in writing and signed by the client, such agreements are not permitted in most family law matters.

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