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Proposed Changes to fee rules

The following are proposed changes to SCR 20:1.5 that would be part of the comprehensive changes being considered to all of SCR Chapter 20.

SCR 20:1.5 Fees

(a) A lawyer’s fee lawyer shall be reasonable not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses. The factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include the following:

(1) the time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly;

(2) the likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;

(3) the fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;

(4) the amount involved and the results obtained;

(5) the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;

(6) the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client;

(7) the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services; and

(8) whether the fee is fixed or contingent.

(b) When the lawyer has not regularly represented the client, (1) The scope of the representation and the basis or rate of the fee and expenses for which the client will be responsible shall be communicated to the client, preferably in writing, before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation, except when the lawyer will charge a regularly represented client on the same basis or rate. If it is reasonably foreseeable that the total cost of representation to the client, including attorney’s fees, will be $1000 or less, the communication may be oral or in writing. Any changes in the basis or rate of the fee or expenses shall also be communicated in writing to the client.

(2) If the total cost of representation to the client, including attorney’s fees, is more than $1000, the purpose and effect of any retainer or advance fee that is paid to the lawyer shall be communicated in writing.

(3) A lawyer shall promptly respond to a client’s request for information concerning fees and expenses.

(c) A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited by paragraph (d) or other law. A contingent fee agreement shall be in a writing signed by the client, and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal; litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery; and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. The agreement must clearly notify the client of any expenses for which the client will be liable whether or not the client is the prevailing party. Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the lawyer shall provide the client with a written statement stating the outcome of the matter and if there is a recovery, showing the remittance to the client and the method of its determination.

(d) A lawyer shall not enter into an arrangement for, charge, or collect a contingent fee:

(1) in any action affecting the family, including but not limited to divorce, legal separation, annulment, determination of paternity, setting of support and maintenance, setting of custody and physical placement, property division, partition of marital property, termination of parental rights and adoption, provided that nothing herein shall prohibit a contingent fee for the collection of past due amounts of support or maintenance.

(2) for representing a defendant in a criminal case or any proceeding that could result in deprivation of liberty.

(e) A division of a fee between lawyers who are not in the same firm may be made only if the total fee is reasonable and:

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(1) the division is in proportion to based on the services performed by each lawyer, and the client is advised of and does not object to the participation of all the lawyers involved and is informed if the fee will increase as a result of their involvement;

(2) the lawyers formerly practiced together and the payment to one lawyer is pursuant to a separation or retirement agreement between them; or

(3) by written agreement with the client pursuant to the referral of a matter between the lawyers, each lawyer assumes joint the same ethical responsibility for the representation as if the lawyers were partners in the same firm,; the client is informed of the terms of the referral arrangement, including the share each lawyer will receive and whether the overall fee will increase, and the client consents in a writing signed by the client. advised of and does not object to the participation of all the lawyers involved and is informed if the fee will increase as result of their involvement; and (3) the total fee is reasonable.

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