Duff & Kronfeld, P.C.
Contact Us
View Our Practice Areas

Hiring An Attorney? - Get It In Writing!

The Virginia State Bar "strongly recommends" that attorneys always have written fee agreements with their clients, which describe the scope of the legal services to be performed, and the financial arrangements for payment of the attorney's fees. However, this is merely a suggestion, and not an absolute requirement; therefore, attorneys are far too quickly hired by clients through nothing more than a phone call or a handshake. While there is certainly nothing improper or unethical about this practice, the prudent client should always demand that the terms for employment of an attorney be clearly set forth in a written document. Here are a few reasons why this is important: 

First of all, you, as the client, want to make absolutely certain that there is no later misunderstanding as to precisely what the attorney is being hired to do. Does hiring an attorney to defend you on a traffic charge, or a criminal misdemeanor, include handling a subsequent appeal to a higher court? Does hiring an attorney to represent you in a divorce, including a later custody fight, or protecting your COBRA entitlement for post-divorce healthcare coverage; or implementing QDROs for post-divorce division of retirement plans? A client never wants to be in the position of saying, in hindsight, "I assumed my attorney would do that". Get it in writing at the very outset of the relationship!

Secondly, you should want to have your financial obligations to the attorney clearly spelled out in writing. If you are being charged a flat fee, what does it cover? Will you be expected to pay more if matters do not proceed as the attorney expects? If you are being billed hourly, what are the billing rates for the attorney(s) and staff member(s) who will be working on your case? At what minimum time increments will you be charged, i.e., 1/10th of an hour (6 minutes), 1/4th of an hour (15 minutes) or something else? If the attorney is to be paid contingent on the amount of your recovery, is the fee to be calculated on the gross recovery, or the amount received, net of your costs? These are all important questions that should be addressed in a written fee agreement with your attorney.

Finally, if you should ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to sue your former attorney for committing legal malpractice in the handling of your legal matter, the existence of a written fee agreement could be crucial. Under Virginia law, if a client had a written fee agreement with his or her attorney, then that client would have a period of five (5) years within which to sue the attorney for malpractice. However, if there was no written fee agreement, then that client would have only three (3) years to pursue a malpractice claim.

Hiring an attorney is serious business, and can often involve significant sums of money. An attorney owes it to the client, and the client owes it to himself, to get it in writing!  Contact our firm today!

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
Email Us For A Response

Contact Us Today For Knowledgeable And Client-Centered Assistance

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Duff & Kronfeld, P.C.
11320 Random Hills Road, Suite 630
Fair Oaks Commerce Center
Fairfax, VA 22030

Phone: 703-591-7475
Fax: 703-273-4537
Fairfax Law Office Map