One of the more critical risk management techniques your law firm can use is establishing a thorough, well-written engagement letter to help prevent any potential misunderstandings and avoid any dispute between client and attorney.
The letter should state that a separate engagement agreement will be required if the client wishes to have other legal work outside the scope of representation performed by your law firm.
Having the client consent to these terms through the engagement letter saves your firm from acting without client consent if the client disappears or dies during or subsequent to the attorney-client relationship.
Clients should also be informed they have the right to have another lawyer review the engagement letter outside the presence of your firm, and prior to countersigning the letter. This section of the engagement letter should clearly state that the attorney-client relationship doesn’t begin unless you have received the countersigned letter and any corresponding retainer is paid.
Attorneys must consult the applicable rules of professional conduct, as well as the case law and ethics opinions of the relevant jurisdictions, when drafting engagement letters. In matters where your expect to practice in other jurisdictions under state reciprocity requirements, the relevant rules, case law and ethics opinions also must be researched, and the limitations of such representation should be addressed in the engagement letter.
To reduce their exposure to legal malpractice claims, lawyers and law firms should implement risk control protocols that require engagement letters. Resources such as the CNA Lawyers' Toolkit makes it easy for you to draft comprehensive engagement letters. This toolkit provides a guide to managing the attorney-client relationship and provides examples of each requirement above along with engagement letters tailored to specific areas of practice.