These summaries were prepared by McGuireWoods LLP lawyer Thomas E. Spahn. They are based on the letter opinions issued by the Virginia State Bar. Any editorial comments reflect Mr. Spahn's current personal views, and not the opinions of the Virginia State Bar, McGuireWoods or its clients. 
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8-Bills and Fees

The arrangements between lawyers and clients are "unique and not governed solely by principles that govern ordinary commercial contracts." Although lawyers and clients may agree on an alternative fee that applies when a client discharges a lawyer without cause from a contingent fee arrangement, the alternative must meet the reasonableness standard: when entered into; when the client terminates the lawyer; and when the client obtains a recovery in the lawsuit. A lawyer discharged from a contingent fee arrangement without cause normally recovers under a quantum meruit standard if the retainer agreement is silent, or contains an alternative fee arrangement that would result in an unreasonable fee. The following retainer agreement sentence is improper and misleading because it "actually appears to attempt to set an hourly rate for a quantum meruit analysis" rather than indicating that the lawyer will seek quantum meruit compensation based on the referenced hourly rate: "In the event Client terminates this agreement, the reasonable value of Attorney's services shall be valued at $200 per hour for attorney time and $65 per hour for legal assistant time for all services rendered." The following retainer agreement sentence is improper and misleading because it does not fully explain "under what circumstances law may permit the attorney to elect compensation based on the agreed contingent fee or any settlement offer made to client prior to termination": "In the alternative, the Attorney may, where permitted by law, elect compensation based on the agreed contingency fee for any settlement offer made to Client prior to termination."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn