Client Engagement Agreement

Big Picture

This is the initial agreement that every client must sign before we can represent them. In this agreement we establish some important conditions, such as:
  • The name(s) of the client(s) we are representing
  • The attorney(s) billing rate(s)
  • The paralegal(s) billing rate(s)
  • The amount of the advanced deposit
  • The conditions for either party to terminate (in our case one is if the client isn't following our advice)
  • The fact that we will use cloud storage for documents
  • The fact that we will not retain paper, and keep everything paperless
  • The fact that we will not retain client files for more than 3 years after the representation ends
  • An arbitration provision in the event of disputes
  • The fact that electronic signatures of this agreement are valid
  1. 1

    Use this text in email or letter that client must sign

    Representation by LAWFIRM ("Lawyer" or "us") is on behalf of CLIENT NAME. ("Client" or "you") in connection with litigation against OPPONENT NAME.

    This statement sets forth the standard terms of our engagement as your lawyer. Unless modified in writing by mutual agreement, these terms will be an integral part of my agreement with you in any matters our firm should undertake for you. You should review this statement carefully and contact me promptly if you have any questions. We strongly advise you to retain a copy of this document in your files.

    When our legal representation begins 
    Our representation cannot begin until (1) you have signed, dated the agreement, and returned it to me, and (2) the advanced deposit (if one is required) has been received and cleared into my firm bank account.

    Effectiveness of this agreement
    This agreement will become effective when signed by all parties. If an advanced deposit is required we will not sign until that deposit is given to us.

    The scope of our representation 
    You should have a clear understanding of the extent of legal services that will be provided to you. If you have questions please don't hesitate to let me know so that your concerns can be addressed immediately.

    Our representation of your interests will, at all times, be to the best of our ability. Any discussions about the likely or possible outcome of your matter are expressions of our best professional judgment, but are not guarantees. Our opinions are necessarily limited by our knowledge of the facts and the law as we are able to discern them at any given time (including the facts that you provide to us).

    The person or entity we represent is the person or entity identified in my engagement letter and does not include any affiliates of such person or entity (for example, if you are a corporation or partnership, any parents, subsidiaries, employees, officers, directors, shareholders or partners of the corporation or partnership, or commonly owned corporations or partnerships; or, if you are a trade association, any members of the trade association).

    Thus, for conflict-of-interest purposes, we may represent another client in another matter with interests adverse to any such affiliate without obtaining your consent.

    Upon completion of any services that you have retained us to perform, the attorney-client relationship will be considered terminated without need of a completion or termination letter. This will be the case whether or not we continue to send you announcements, newsletters or other general information.

    If you later retain us to perform further or additional services, our attorney-client relationship will be renewed subject to these terms of engagement, as they may be supplemented at that time.

    Attorneys Fees and Expenses 
    Our fees are based on the actual time spent by us (and our legal assistants) at the standard hourly rates. Our time is billed at $ ____ ATTORNEY RATE/hour and paralegal time is billed at no more than $ ____ PARALEGAL RATE/hour.

    Certain expenses are passed along to you (without any markup). Such expenses include some outsourced administrative services, postage, express mail charges, or other routine communications.

    We bill on a regular basis, normally each month, for both fees and expenses. You agree to make payments promptly upon receipt of my statement. Fees and disbursements that are not timely paid will accrue interest at the 5% per month, beginning thirty days after the date of the invoice reflecting such fees or costs.

    Where an arrangement has been made that fees and disbursements will be paid each month out of a advanced deposit, if enough money is available to draw from then no interest will be charged.

    We will give you prompt notice if your account becomes delinquent, and you agree to bring the account or the advanced deposit current. If the delinquency continues and you do not arrange satisfactory payment terms. We  reserve the right to ask you for security deposits if your statements are overdue and we deem it necessary to get security for payment in the future.

    Advanced Deposits 
    New clients will be asked to deposit an advanced deposit, in this case the amount requested is $ ______  AMOUNT OF DEPOSIT. The advanced deposit will be credited toward your initial invoices until it is exhausted.

    At the conclusion of our legal representation or at such time as the deposit is unnecessary or is appropriately reduced, the remaining balance or an appropriate part of it will be returned to you. Advanced deposits are placed in a non-interest-bearing account according to law.

    Communications Policy
    I treat communications with clients very seriously. First, I make sure I'm fully present and prepared whenever I speak with clients so I can fully address any questions or concerns.
    This requires a clear policy about when I communicate with clients and under what circumstances. That said, my policy regarding communications is as follows:

    • I do not take unscheduled calls. If you want to speak to me you have to make an appointment using my automated calendaring system.
    • I do not respond to emails immediately, especially when I'm busy working on other client matters (which I usually am). If I can't respond in a reasonably prompt timeframe, I will send an email to let you know (1) I received your email and (2) the timeframe I hope to respond by in a complete manner.
    • I do not take any calls or respond to emails on the weekend, ever. I devote weekends to my family and make sure I'm fully present for them, which they obviously appreciate very much.
    • I do not communicate by text at all, except in rare circumstances (e.g. communicating about last minute scheduling changes)

    You may terminate our representation at any time, with or without cause, by notifying us in writing. Our files (which are kept in digital form) pertaining to the case will be retained, subject to our policy on retention and destruction of files (see below).

    Your termination of our services will not affect your responsibility to pay for legal services rendered and additional charges incurred before termination and in connection with an orderly transition of papers and computer files.

    We may terminate the representation if you do not honor any of the terms of this agreement, including:
    • Failure to pay invoices on time, especially if this happens repeatedly.
    • Failing to cooperate in a manner that significantly hampers our ability to properly assist you (e.g. not providing important information that we request in a timely way)
    • Knowlingly not telling us the full truth when recounting events (we can't properly represent you if you don't tell us the truth)
    • Failing to follow our expert advice, especially after indicating you will do so, 
    • Failing to miss scheduled appointments (especially without any prior notice)
    • Repeated non-compliance with the above-mentioned communications policy.

    Retention of Files 
    Our policy is to scan and otherwise digitize all file materials, and to use and retain as little paper as possible. We therefore ask that if you, for some reason, require that paper files be kept that you notify us of that requirement at the outset (i.e. before you sign this agreement) so that we can decide whether to accept representation of you in this matter.

    After your representation is over we will gladly provide you with all of your case and file information in digital form.

    No guarantees are made that client files will be retained for more than 3 years after the representation is terminated. Again, we keep no paper except for documents that absolutely require paper originals (e.g. promissory notes and wills).

    Cloud Storage
    Our firm uses cloud storage services to work efficiently and cost-effectively. We take all reasonable precautions to maintain the highest level of security to protect your privacy and to preserve all client confidential information.

    By signing this engagement you acknowledge your assent to our use of cloud services for transmitting and storing information related to your matter.

    Arbitration of Lawyer-Client disputes 
    Any dispute, controversy or claim that may arise between us shall be resolved by arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in the city and state where our representation was performed under the Commercial Arbitration Rules, Expedited Procedures effective at the time for the dispute.

    Furthermore, any judgment on any award rendered by any arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court having jurisdiction over such award. Among the disputes that the parties hereby agree to arbitrate are the following: (1) Disputes regarding Fees, Costs or other Compensation; (2) all other disputes, including but not limited to, those arising under the law of tort, contract, restitution and/or legal malpractice.

    Electronic Signatures and Copies 
    All parties to this agreement agree that a digital signature shall be effective to prove each party's agreement to the terms of this document. Furthermore, the parties agree that the terms of this Agreement may be proved through an electronic facsimile, including a scanned electronic copy in Portable Document Format ("PDF") or other digital format, and that no "original" hard-copy document shall be retained to prove the terms of this Agreement.

    Consultation and Informed Consent 
    By signing below, Client acknowledges that Client has had the opportunity to discuss the terms of each paragraph of this Agreement with the Lawyer. In other words, you can call (and should) us or email us before you sign this agreement if you have ANY questions or concerns.

    Rules of Professional Conduct 
    It should be noted that we are bound by all provisions of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct ("Rules"). Any verbiage in this Agreement that conflicts with my obligations under the Rules will have no effect.

    Signed (either manually or digitally) as of the dates set forth below.

    Attorney Signature                    
     Date: _______________

    Client signature: CLIENT NAME
    Date: _______________
  2. 2

    For more examples of engagement agreements

    To see other examples of engagement agreements, click here.