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

Charging interest on unpaid bills is not per se unethical, but an "automatic imposition of a uniform finance or interest charge" ignores a "personal element of the attorney-client relationship." The following would be required before the lawyer could ethically charge interest: the lawyer and client "have reached an agreement as to the amount of attorneys' fees to be charged, the client is capable of paying the same but desires that the payment be deferred for the client's convenience;" " the client at all times has the right to prepay any remaining balance of the fee without penalty;" the lawyer may not charge interest on any fees that remain unearned; "there is a reasonable expectation that a client has the ability to pay the agreed upon fee and the interest thereon;" should a fee dispute arise, "every effort should be made to work out an amicable resolution of differences which arise between the attorney and client."A lawyer may not "sue a client for a fee unless to prevent fraud or gross imposition by the client." Overall, the Bar indicated that use of a credit card "is a preferable alternative to charging interest for the financing of legal fees."

Copyright 2000, Thomas E. Spahn