June 16, 2016 Top Story

Ethics Board Explains Proper Conduct under Flat-Fee Arrangements

Advisory opinion addresses where to keep flat fees and related issues

By Katerina E. Milenkovski

A new advisory opinion clarifies the propriety of flat-fee arrangements and the manner in which such fees must be accounted for. According to the Ohio Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Conduct, the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct require a lawyer to deposit flat fees and expenses paid in advance for representation into a client trust account, and the lawyer can only withdraw funds as the fee is earned or as expenses are incurred. This requirement runs counter to the Board’s prior guidance, which instructed that flat fees be placed in the lawyer’s account. The revision brings Ohio’s position more in line with those of other states.

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