A letter of commitment is less formal than a contract, but remains a legally binding document that can be used in court. If you are dealing with a divorce case and you represent only one of the spouses, but this is not clearly defined in the engagement letter, leave yourself and the law firm open to a new claim. In most practice areas, there are scenarios where an unclear definition of the client can be very costly for you and the firm. Other details that should be included in your mandate letter include: your fees and fee structure, possible consequences or restrictions that may arise in connection with your representation, a reasonable amount of time that representation may take with possible setbacks, and the definition of who the client is. If your law firm doesn`t currently have or use letters of engagement, what should you do? Or, if you`re currently using mission letters but need improvements, who should you turn to? The most important document that defines the relationship between lawyer and client is the mandate agreement or mandate letter. Regardless of the nature of the business, the value of the business, or the intended award, a written commitment agreement or mandate letter is a smart decision, even if it is not required. The letter of commitment must clearly indicate who is represented under the agreement and, in some cases, who is not represented. For example, you can represent a specific employee, but not the company itself (and vice versa). Or you can represent a member of a family or estate, but not the individual heirs. In these cases, it may be best to explicitly state who you do not represent. This will highlight the fact that the client`s interests may not coincide with those of other interested parties who may also interact with you and provide an opportunity to discuss how conflicts are handled when they arise. The description of the scope of your presentation should never contain anything that could be interpreted as a promise to achieve a certain result. As a general rule, you should also avoid superlatives such as “our law firm will offer the highest quality of representation” or “we will always respond professionally to your situation” and promise that the issue will be handled in some way.
The risk of including such language in the contractual agreement is that it could be interpreted as an enforceable guarantee of success, promises of staffing, or the firm`s adoption of a higher level of professional support than the “ordinary” by the law firm. It can also inappropriately increase the customer`s expectations of success. You should even consider including a specific disclaimer like this: “As you and I have discussed, the outcome of legal issues is inherently uncertain, and I have not and cannot guarantee a favorable outcome.” In addition to covering the work included in the presentation, it may be advisable to list what is not included in the presentation. For example, if the agreement covers a matter of litigation, does it involve the processing of an appeal or is it excluded? (b) A lawyer shall inform a client of the extent of the representation and the basis or rate of the fees and expenses for which he is responsible. This information will be communicated to the client before or within a reasonable time after the start of the representation and must be provided in writing if required by law or court. This provision does not apply if the lawyer charges the same base or rate to a client who is regularly represented and provides services of the same general nature as those previously provided and paid to him by him. Changes in the scope of representation or the basis or rate of fees or expenses will also be communicated to the client. You may provide information about the lawyer or lawyers who will occupy the client`s case and/or you reserve the right to make appropriate changes to the client`s staff. Best practices stipulate that these changes are communicated immediately to the Customer and that the Customer will not incur any additional costs due to a change in personnel made by the Company.
When identifying the scope of representation, it is also important to specify exactly who the client is and who is not. Lack of clarity about who exactly represents your business can occur in many common situations: when the company represents a company but not its subsidiaries; whether a corporation represents a partnership, but not the individual partners (or vice versa); in family matters, where only a few family members are represented; The estate is important if the testator or executor is represented, but not the beneficiaries; and immigration is important if the lawyer represents the employer or the immigrant employee, but not both. In such situations, it may be necessary to clarify the scope of the lawyer`s mandate relationship. For example: “The company represents the company in this matter. The Company agrees that representation does not create a legal mandate relationship between the Firm and the Company`s affiliates. Proper identification of the client can help dismiss a disqualification request or claim that a prohibited conflict of interest has affected the lawyer`s representation. Failure to comply with §§ 6147 and 6148 makes an agreement questionable at the customer`s choice. If an agreement is cancelled, a lawyer can still try to collect a reasonable fee. As Assistant Vice President of Underwriting at Protexure Insurance Agency, I have seen many claims because lawyers choose not to use letters of commitment. Contract letters are so important to protect law firms that insurance companies often give law firms a discount on their insurance for its use.
There are many reasons that contribute to this, but it should never be forgotten. Not only is this a potential money saving on your annual insurance premium for legal errors, but it`s also one of the best ways to avoid a claim. Your letter of commitment is the first step in this process. In matters eligible for the Program, as described in Part 137, when a client requests arbitration under the Program, this is mandatory for counsel. However, in some cases, you may include a clause in your order agreement that the customer consents to the prior resolution of fee disputes in accordance with Part 137. Or you may need to include a clause in the contractual agreement that notifies customers of their right to arbitration or mediation in fee disputes. The scope of work determines the services your lawyer provides to you as a client. You should take a close look at the scope of the work.
You and your lawyer need to know which legal outcomes are included in the lawyer`s representation and which are not.2 If in doubt, ask questions. For the purposes of this rule, when a business (c.B. an insurance company) hires a lawyer to represent a third party, the term client refers to the company that hires the lawyer. If there is a significant change in the scope of services or fees to be charged, the customer will receive an updated order letter. (c) Instead of providing the Client with a written letter of commitment, an attorney may comply with the provisions of subsection (a) of this section by entering into a written fee agreement signed with the client before or within a reasonable time after the commencement of the representation, provided that the agreement addresses the matters set out in subsection (b) of this section. In short, a mandate letter defines the legal relationship between a law firm and a client. A letter of order contains the terms, conditions and scope of the lawyer/client relationship as well as the conditions of remuneration of the law firm. A written mandate contract can protect both the lawyer and the client. It makes the relationship clear to the client, helps the client assess and take seriously the lawyer`s work, and recalls the agreement and scope of the work to be done in the event that disputes arise later.
4. Liability Insurance. As a client, you need to make sure that the law firm you hire has liability insurance in place in the event of a problem. Massachusetts attorneys are currently not required to purchase malpractice insurance. Look for the companies covered. If necessary, you can ask the firm for a copy of the statement sheet at any time, as it refers to its current policy on legal errors. If a company is reluctant to provide you with this or doesn`t have insurance, then run into the mountains. You certainly don`t want to do business with them. Like any commitment in life, the relationship between a lawyer and a client is a serious one that requires a written agreement. To this end, the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct now require that all attorney-client relationships require a written engagement letter. The rule states that a lawyer must write down “within a reasonable time after the commencement of representation” the extent of representation and the basis of the rate, fees and expenses for which the client is responsible.
In accordance with the mandates of the Board of Bar Overseers (the organizing body that oversees the conduct of lawyers in Massachusetts) and our insurance company, Katz Law Group has developed a letter of commitment that is complete, fair and understandable. .