Fee agreements and funding
2020 has shown us that so much in life is unpredictable, but your client relationships don’t necessarily have to be. Although you can’t foresee or control every aspect of your dealings with your clients, there are certain precautions you can take to better manage your risk of liability and other headaches. Start the new year off right by making sure that your engagement agreements are not only compliant and up-to-date, but that you set the tone for happy and healthy attorney-client relationships.
Avoiding crowds is our reality at the moment in an effort to reduce the risk of contracting or spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus. Perhaps lawyers should take a cue from this pandemic and incorporate a similar precaution into our law practice in an effort to avoid unnecessary risks of liability.
California Rule of Professional Conduct 1.2.1 permits lawyers to provide advice to clients on how to comply with state law without the lawyer being subject to the specter of discipline for unavoidably facilitating the violation of federal law. Without legal representation, those who want to engage in conduct that is permitted under state law, but illegal under federal law, may not fully understand their rights, duties, and liabilities.
A law practice driven by money and power is risky in a service-based industry regulated by rules intended, in relevant part, to protect the public and the integrity of the legal system and to promote confidence in the legal profession. Lawyers who instead focus on the quality of their services should not only develop better client relationships, but any job well done ought to ultimately breed success. Therefore, money may not buy happiness, but professionalism may.
Putting effort and energy into avoiding conflicts is good business. Conflicts of interest issues can be very costly, both to the firm’s finances and its reputation. Investing in a good conflict system and educating each lawyer in the firm about the conflict rules and risks will be paid back in spades. Properly managing your risk of liability from conflicts of interest may result in turning down work or spending more time vetting a lateral hire, but it will save you money in insurance costs, litigation defense expenses, settlement payments, and fighting disqualification motions and disciplinary complaints.