Thursday, August 29, 2013

On Client Engagement Agreements and Terms of Business

[h/t to Jeff Brandt at Pinhawk] for a link to: "Fee Tale: This Is Not Your Father’s Engagement Agreement," an essay on the increasing risks and complexities associated with client engagement management. Jeff notes:
  • "Why should anyone in IT care about the engagement letters the attorneys send out? Because it should govern aspects of the technology and information disposition - which IT people are typically responsible for. Collaborative technology (i.e., use/non-use of DropBox) and records disposition (physical and electronic) can and should be specified and agreed to with the client in advance of the engagement."
The article itself, written by a Senior Law Practice Advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program, goes into greater detail:
  • "There are, I suppose, any number of reasons why more lawyers don’t take full advantage of the ability to define the attorney-client relationship... However, lawyers spend their entire careers worrying about worst-case scenarios. So it’s always striking when they do not apply the same analyses that they offer to clients to their own practices."
  • "In many cases, however, neither clients nor their attorneys have the appropriate depth of understanding respecting the technologies that will be used in the representation. Including a provision within the fee agreement covering the technology that the law firm uses, and the security that is applied to the technology systems, can help both sides. The client becomes aware of the tools the lawyer will use, and the lawyer is forced to gain a more-than-cursory understanding of the technology applied — since she must explain it to the client."
  • "If you can educate your client while also acquiring informed consent respecting the technology you’ll apply for his case, you’re effectively killing two birds with one stone..."
  • "With the rising popularity of unbundled, discrete representations, it’s important to make sure that the scope provision of your fee agreement is clear, and clearly elucidated, to the client. As with all of these suggested fee agreement inclusions, this measure can be viewed as an aid to both client and practitioner, rather than as another administrative burden"
  • "Fee agreements are underused tools in the attorney’s arsenal. If you can update your fee agreements to address important management aspects of the modern practice, it will have a positive effect through the course of each representation and afterwards."

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