When hiring an attorney, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a representation agreement. You have a lot of other things on your mind, such as taking care of the legal problem you’re facing.
However, if you proceed without an attorney representation agreement in place, it can result in future trouble.
Some attorneys will present you with a formal contract full of details outlining your arrangement. Others will use a much shorter agreement, sticking primarily to the points that are most important to them. And of course, it’s not out of the question to consult with an attorney who doesn’t ask you to sign any type of representation agreement.
Regardless of the situation, it’s critical to review your representation agreement to ensure that it includes all the right details. Here are some of the most important:
- Fee: From an hourly fee to a fixed fee to a contingency fee, make sure this is clearly outlined in your agreement, as you don’t want to face a payment dispute in the future.
- Costs and fees: It’s possible your representation will include additional costs and fees, such as filing fees. Make sure your representation agreement outlines these, as you don’t want a surprise.
- Extent of your relationship: Know exactly what your attorney will do for you. For example, they may handle your initial case, but not an appeal, if necessary.
- How to end the relationship: Your representation agreement should have clear language on the steps either party must take if they want to end the relationship, regardless of the reason.
- How to obtain files: If you need to obtain your files in the future, this will outline the steps to take and the cost of doing so.
The primary reason to have a written representation agreement is to ensure that both parties understand the terms and conditions of the relationship. It will also give you peace of mind, as you have something to fall back on in the event of a disagreement.
If you run into any trouble with your attorney, review your representation agreement for guidance on what to do next. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to take action against your attorney, such as if you’re the victim of legal malpractice.