Wednesday, February 4, 2015

It's the Engagement Letter (Something)!



Gracing the pages of the esteemed "The Lawyer" magazine, Eddie Reich, US General Counsel at Dentons shines the lime light on an important issue: "Engagement letters: so simple even a child could understand" --
  • "I appreciate that some of the issues discussed in these Risk Tips can be rather complicated. Take engagement letters, for example. Advice like ‘send an engagement letter’ can be difficult to comprehend. And admonitions to ‘carefully review outside counsel terms’ can really tax the brain. After all, not everyone immerses themselves in intensive study of professional responsibility esoterica."
  • "So I’ve enlisted a couple of old friends to help communicate best practice with regard to engagement letters in a simple way. Please study these carefully..."
Linked in the update is a PDF featuring two colorful cartoon buddies named Goofus and Gallant. One of whom "swipes an apple from his client's conference room; it's the only thing of value he can get from his client since it refuses to pay its bills, claiming that it never requested the legal services provided."

This brings to mind another recent update from another gentleman who has worn the law firm general counsel hat and now colorfully blogs under the banner Lawyering for Lawyers, Steve Crislip at Jackson Kelly: "Sometimes Clients Will Just Not Pay You" --
  • "Any engagement letter should address in writing the right to withdraw if not paid and the requirement for the client to make timely payments of bills.  You are urged to discuss any withdrawal procedures with them and to give proper notice, under applicable rules, before withdrawing.  Lawyers should not be reluctant to withdraw when not paid either.  It is important to do that well before any critical deadlines and to advise the client upon withdrawal of all such deadlines in writing.  Otherwise, courts may not let you out because it would amount to abandonment, or the client will claim they did not know of the deadlines.  The point is that lawyers need to be better business managers of their work done."
  • "In an extreme example, recently the firm of Morgan Lewis & Beckins was finally allowed to withdraw 30 years after it was fired by the client. The Third Circuit would not grant the motion to withdraw until the client could retain substitute counsel, which did not happen.  Finally, a three-judge panel upheld the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s decision to let them out as counsel. It makes the point that there are some clients you do not deserve to represent."
(If only there were some new class of business acceptance software that could help automate and streamline the process of creating engagement letters and tracking internal compliance... Now that would be something...)

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