Opinions of the General Counsel, 0917 ALBJ, 78 The Alabama Lawyer 398 (2017)

Author:J. Douglas McElvy, J.
 
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OPINIONS OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL

Vol. 78 No. 5 Pg. 398

Alabama Bar Lawyer

September, 2017

J. Douglas McElvy, J.

Billing Client for Attorney’s Fees, Costs and Other Expenses

The Disciplinary Commission, in RO-94-02, addressed the issues surrounding a lawyer’s billing a client for attorney’s fees, costs and other expenses incurred during the representation of the client. Basically, the Disciplinary Commission’s opinion adopted ABA Formal Opinion 93-379.

The instant opinion reaffirms the Disciplinary Commission’s adoption of and adherence to that referenced formal opinion of the ABA.

DISCUSSION:

One of the primary factors considered by a client when retaining a lawyer is the fee to be paid by the client for the lawyer’s providing legal representation to the client. Incidental to the lawyer’s fee, for which the client will be responsible, are those expenses and costs incurred by the lawyer during the representation of the client.

Rule 1.4(b) requires that a lawyer explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit a client to make informed decisions regarding the representation. Inherent in this initial consultation with a client would be some discussion of the fee to be charged by the lawyer, and possibly reimbursement to the lawyer for expenses he or she incurs during the representation of the client.

In those situations where there is no pre-existing lawyer-client relationship, Rule 1.5(b), Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, encourages the lawyer to communicate to the client, preferably in writing, the basis or rate of the fee to be charged by the lawyer for representing the client. The rule suggests that this communication occur “before or within a reasonable time after commencing the representation.” A.R.P.C., 1.5(b).

The Comment to Rule 1.5 encourages that “… an understanding as to the fee should be promptly established.” The lawyer is also given an opportunity at the outset of representation to fully discuss and address any concerns which the client may have concerning the total fee, which would obviously include costs and expenses to be reimbursed to the lawyer by the client.

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