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Attorney Engagement Letter basics

An Attorney Engagement Letter is typically the first step in entering into a legally binding relationship between an attorney and a client. It outlines the duties and obligations of both parties, as well as the nature of the relationship. Most attorneys will not begin to work on a case before the letter is signed because, technically, an attorney may not be "your attorney" until it is.

What is in an Engagement Letter?

An Engagement Letter is a legally binding agreement setting forth the nature of the attorney-client relationship. It sets out the terms for the representation, including the nature of the work to be completed, when payment will be due, and whether the agreement will be based on an hourly rate, a lump sum, or a contingency fee. Essentially, an Engagement Letter is a contract between the attorney and the client(s).

Is an Engagement Letter required?

State laws differ on the requirement for an Engagement Letter. In certain states, legal services that are expected to cost less than $1,000, for example, do not require an Engagement Letter. However, even when Engagement Letters are not required, they are still considered to be best practice, as they provide a writing to point back to in case of a future disagreement or potential misunderstandings.

When should an Engagement Letter be sent to the client?

An Engagement Letter is typically required before an attorney will conduct any work on the case. Discuss the Engagement Letter process with your prospective attorney, and ask how long their intake process generally takes. Law firms typically have Engagement Letters on file, only needing to change a few details for straightforward matters. More complicated cases or those with multiple clients may require additional time to prepare.

Who prepares an Engagement Letter?

The attorney usually prepares an Engagement Letter for all of the parties to sign. The agreement might include:

  • The name of the client
  • The name of the attorney or law firm representing the client
  • A description of the legal services to be provided (as well as any exclusions)
  • Fee structure (hourly, lump sum, contingency fee based, etc.)
  • Which attorney or attorneys may work on the case, as well as how their rates will be calculated
  • Retainer information (a deposit from which fees will be deducted as the attorney earns them)
  • What laws govern the agreement
  • Term of the agreement (for example, for a number of years or until a particular matter is resolved)

The Rocket Lawyer Attorney Engagement Letter is available to use whether you are a lawyer providing services, or an individual contracting with a lawyer to receive legal services.

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Sample Attorney Engagement Letter

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