We were a little surprised that in today’s day and age that attorneys still operate without an engagement letter to clearly spell out the rights and responsibilities of the attorney-client relationship.
But as this excellent piece by Mark Bassingthwaighte points out, that appears to be reality for many practitioners.
To us, at least, this is a huge (and potentially risky) mistake. The engagement letter does many critical things: it establishes that there is an actual attorney-client relationship; it sets forth the scope of work, both what will be done and, as, if not more importantly, what will not be done; and it provides the basis for fee disputes and other collection activities.
While we’d all like to think that every attorney-client relationship will be problem free; reality has a nasty way of proving otherwise. To not protect yourself with an engagement letter, especially when they can often be relatively simple agreements and created using basic forms, is simply playing with fire.