Representation Requirements

You need to be familiar with the requirements in the Business & Professions Code that govern fee agreements and billing:

Business and Professions Code Section 6146 6149.5.  Prepare form fee agreements that comply with the statutory and ethical requirements and that are tailored for your practice and the type of matters and clients you expect to work with. For instance, specific requirements apply to contingent fee agreements (Bus. & Prof. Code § 6147.5), agreements for representation in medical malpractice matters (Bus. & Prof. Code § 6146), and hourly fee agreements (Bus. & Prof. Code § 6148). When using any form agreements, make sure that you tailor each one for use in a specific client matter, and periodically review the forms to make sure that they remain compliant, and contain the terms you need in order to best protect yourself and inform your client. In particular, make sure to set forth a clear scope of work in each fee agreement that makes clear what you will and will not do in the course of the representation.

The State Bar of California has sample form fee agreements (most recently revised in July 2015) that you can use as a basis for your own forms.  Find the link to these at the State Bar website.


How to Prevent Attorney-Client Fee Disputes

Try to avoid fee disputes with your clients through frequent communication; the use of detailed time entries on bills; advance deposits of fees; prompt and regular billing; management of accounts receivable; and the collection of advance deposits towards fees.  Fee collection matters often provoke legal malpractice claims, so the best practice tip is to avoid being in the position of having to seek legal action against a client to collect a fee if at all possible. Make sure you are familiar with the requirements that apply to a client trust account, including knowing what types of funds must be deposited into that account and when you are authorized or required to take funds out of that account. The State Bar has published a Handbook on Client Trust Accounting which is very helpful.  Violations of the rules that govern client trust accounts can subject an attorney to discipline.

If you do find yourself in a situation in which you need to take action against a client for unpaid fees, make sure that you comply with the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Act provisions of the Business & Professions Code, section 6200 et seq.  The Bar Association of San Francisco has good resources for both attorneys and clients, including the Notice of Client’s Right to Fee Arbitration that you are required to serve before you commence a fee action against a client.  Click here to learn more.


Insurance Discounts through BASF

The Bar Association of San Francisco has relationships with certain brokers to provide insurance to its members, often at a discount.  Learn more here.

Keep in mind that if you do not have professional liability insurance, you must inform your clients of that fact for any matter in which it is reasonably foreseeable that you will spend more than four hours of time.  Rule of Professional Conduct 3-410.