Scruples: Handling Flat Fees

Vol. 37 No. 4

The author is with Armstrong Teasdale, LLP, St. Louis, and teaches legal ethics at Washington University School of Law. Please send feedback or questions for future columns to

Paradox rapped lightly on the door and was glad to see Ethox hanging up the telephone. “Paradox, my friend,” Ethox said, “You look confused. What is the problem?”

“ACME Products has demanded that we accept flat fees to handle small
product-liability claims. Senior Litigator agreed to handle the work for $30,000 per case, and has now asked me to figure out how we should handle the flat-fee payments and to prepare a standard engagement form.” Paradox stopped and groaned softly. “I have done a bunch of research, and although I understand that ‘flat fees’ and ‘fixed fees’ are the same thing, everything else seems a bit confusing.”

“This is a great question,” Ethox responded. “After all, if we place client funds in our firm’s operating account too soon, the firm could get into serious trouble with disciplinary authorities. What has your research shown so far?”


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